Hang In There.

This is my entry into the 2017 Flash Fiction contest.  My Genre was suspense, the location had to be a balcony and at some point in the story a spotlight needed to appear.

 

Hang In There

I look between my feet and see her standing below me.  I stay still as she calls to me, using a spotlight to look around the darkened yard. I keep quiet.  I love her and I want to be with her, but I’m annoyed, and reluctant to give away my location right now. The balcony provides just the right amount of cover and of course she doesn’t expect me to be up here.  I don’t know why I feel like I need to be away from her, but I do.  She treats me horribly – ignoring me for the most part, then lavishing attention on me when she feels needy. I have some pride.

I crouch lower as she starts to look around a little more earnestly. ‘Gina!’ she calls, her voice a little exasperated.  I shift my weight and the small Juliette balcony groans – but she doesn’t hear.  She turns the spotlight off and jams her left fist into her hip, arm akimbo.       

‘She’s got her Bitch-wings on’ I think to myself with a sigh.

‘Fine!’ she says in a loud voice ‘you’re being an idiot.  Stay out here all night then!’  She turns and marches back into the house, closing the patio door with a decisive click. I hear the lock slide into place.

I stand up again.  I got here by shimmying up the tree that stands just beside the door and I’m not really sure I want to get down the same way.  I look behind me – the window that looks out onto this balcony from our bedroom is locked so there’s no way I can get in there.  I look back at the tree.  Seriously? What was I thinking?  Well, I wasn’t thinking.

I was so upset with her – we had company and she tried introducing me but I am not something to be trotted out for everyone’s entertainment. It’s humiliating. I’ve never been an equal in this relationship and that is a hard thing for me to look at:  I’ve always been fiercely independent and provided for myself. When we met I was living in reduced circumstances – but I was happy.  Once we spent some time together though, we realized it was love at first sight. I had never felt as connected to another person as I did to her. So yes, it was quick, we moved in together that afternoon – but when it’s right, it’s right.  At least it seemed right.

I look at the tree again and resign myself to the fact that I’m only going to be able to get down from here the same way I got up.  I climb up onto the balcony railing and get my balance, teetering just a moment before I jump for the branch. Before I can properly launch myself,  my foot slips off the railing. I manage to grab one of the spindles just as I fall. The railing acts as a pivot and I crash against the building, slamming into the wall. I look down, heart pounding, breath coming in quick gasps.  I look up at the railing – my grip is firm. For now.  I look down again. No, it is just too far to drop.  I scan the house and see the flicker from the TV screen. She must be watching TV without a care in the world about me.  A pang of annoyance breaks through the rising panic.

I look up again as I feel my grip slide. All the hair stands up on the back of my neck. I try to pull myself up, but I don’t have enough strength and my muscles are stressed to the max.  I try swinging my feet, trying to get my body swinging, hoping that I can get a leg over the part I’m hanging on to.  Nope.  And my grip slides a bit more.  I scream, hoping someone will hear me.  I look frantically at the house again, screaming as loud as I can.  The flicker of the TV mocks me.   

My grip slides even further.  I am almost at the point of no return.  I try to lift myself and give myself enough slack to get a better grip but it just causes me to lose purchase. I’m very close to losing my grip. Now I change my tactic: I try not to kick with my feet as swinging makes it harder to hold on. But frankly, the only thing that has a firm hold is panic.

I scream again, as loud as I can – hoping above hope that she can hear me over the television. I am absolutely regretting climbing up here – it seemed like such a good idea when I was annoyed.

Suddenly I slip and I am no longer holding onto the railing.  I fall twisting and turning, reaching out as far as I can, desperately hoping that something will save me.

I hit the ground hard, all the air leaves my lungs in a giant Whoosh! I look around quickly to see if anyone has witnessed my denouement. No one. Of course I landed on my feet. I sit and give myself a soothing wash and when my nerves are settled I go and call as loudly as I can at the door.  After a second the door opens and there she is, her face wreathed in smiles.

‘Gina you silly cat, where have you been?’  I am scooped up into her soft arms. She nuzzles my neck and I start to purr.  I can’t help it.  I love her.

Home for the Holidays

     Sam was licking the spoon from her ice cream sundae when she heard a ruckus on the street behind her.  Glancing over her shoulder she saw a tall blonde woman bending to help another woman to her feet – and froze. The Blonde was her sister Jenn and Sam had successfully been avoiding her for 3 days now.  How had she managed to find her down here at the farmers market of all places?

     Walking as quickly as possible, she zipped around the corner of the ice cream parlour, then plastered herself against the wall.  People around her were staring but she was oblivious. At least that’s what she told herself. She slid along the brick until she could see around the corner. Maybe Jenn wasn’t following?

     ‘Sam! Wait’

     Dammit!  She pushed past two women and hurried across the street to the other side. Breaking into a run, she headed down a side road towards the golf course.  Her panicked brain measured the height of the fence and determined that she could, probably, get over it.  Sliding into the ditch like a batter desperate for his base, her jeans were grass stained and wet when she hit the bottom. Bouncing up she grabbed the barbed wire fence and started climbing.  She wasn’t immediately successful – the fence was meant to keep people out, not for 54 year old women to climb – but with a little determination and only one tear in her jeans, she managed to lever herself over and land in an ungainly heap on the other side.  As she rested panting on her hands and knees she saw Jenn running down the street and their eyes met over the distance.

     ‘Wait!’

     Nope.  Sam turned and crashed through the trees and right into a branch. Her feet flew out from under her and she fell flat on her back, the air leaving her in a whoosh. As she lay struggling to regain her breath,  she heard another loud ‘Oooof’. It was satisfying to her that Jenn was no more skilled at this Indiana Jones stuff than she was.

     Crawling to her feet, Sam started off again, somewhat slower this time, with twigs and mud stuck to her back.  She broke out of the woods and onto a putting green. The two golfers on the green took a step back. Nonchalantly, Sam smiled and straightened her sweater, flicking twigs and grass out of her hair,

     ‘Lovely day is it not?’ She gave what she hoped was a stellar smile then spied the golf cart.

     ‘Excuse me gentlemen, I seem to have lost mine’ Running over she vaulted onto the cart.

     ‘What the hell?’ was all she heard from the confused men as she slammed the throttle down, the electric cart leaping to life. Well… that’s what she imagined would happen. In reality it rolled forward silently and at a sedate pace.  When she looked back, Jenn had emerged from the woods, knees wet, blouse askew, hair not at all looking good.

     She laughed and threw her head back ‘So long Sucker!’ she yelled. She pushed both of the mens’ golf bags off the cart, delighted with the sound the jangle of clubs made.

     ‘Step aside Thelma & Louise, I am on a tear!’

Jenn’s howl of frustration was music to her ears.

She was just out of their sight when her get away car started to slow down.

     ‘What?’ she gasped, ‘what is wrong you, stupid cart!’ she hit the steering wheel and the horn emitted a sad little honk. She had no time for this! She leapt off and ran like a crazy woman down the fairway. People were shouting and  panic started to beat it’s gossamer wings as the reality of her actions started to surface.

     ‘Reframe it!’ she admonished herself.  And just like that (and has her therapist taught her), she was channeling her inner James Bond.  She zigged, she zagged, dashing along the edge of a waterhole, trying to get Jenn to slip or fall. But it was no use. She slipped inelegantly on goose poop; executed a clumsy pirouette and started to fall.  Jenn’s hand grabbed her shoulder, but Sam wrenched out of her grasp causing them both to over balance and plunge into the water.

     ‘What… is… wrong…with… you’ Jenn sputtered as they bobbed to the surface. Sam was trying to stand but her feet were sinking into gooey mud at the bottom of the pond – she tried not to think about how many layers of goose poop were down there.  Sam shook her head and sloshed to the shore, sliding back into the water twice before she managed to flop on her side on the ground.  People were gathering, golf clubs forgotten, trying to decide if they should intervene.

Jenn flopped beside her, water and mud splattering Sam again as she lay gasping for air.

     ‘Sam.’ far too tired to even turn her head, Jenn pulled a soggy recipe card from her pocket and tried to give it to her. ‘Why do we have to do this every time?’

Sam flopped her hand at the proffered card in rejection.

     ‘It’s not my turn. I’m not doing it. I hate it. You can’t make me.’  and with this, she staggered to her feet and stumbled away, cackling maniacally.

     ‘You can run as much as you want’ Jenn yelled, ‘You’re still hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year so you better have something cooked!’

The only reply was a ‘HA!’ from the distance.  Jenn closed her eyes. Family was a bitch when it came to the holidays.

I of the Beholder

I sense the synapses going about their business of transferring electricity from neuron to neuron, giving information to the host.  Irritated, I flex and disrupt their activity.

The host falls.

Fuck you, synapses.’  I think smugly as they scramble to get the disrupted information going again.

The message comes: ‘They’re here’.

I prepare myself. In a time of equality for all, there is no equality for me. There were plans afoot to eradicate me, excise the brain tumor. Well, that is going to change – I am not as benign as they want to believe.

The host has righted itself and now everything is ready.  It’s time.

I flex. The hand reaches out, knocking over the pottery on the shelf, sending it all crashing to the floor. Oops. I flex again, directing the other limb.  The hand reaches out again, picks up the fetting knife from the table.

‘Where?’ I send back, adrenaline singing through me.

To the right of the host.

I send thanks to Ocular Nerve for their help.  We are, after all, in this together. I flex, directing the host to turn to the right.  With Ocular Nerve’s help, we negotiate our way around the potter’s wheel, past the table, through the open door to the other studio.

‘Are you ok? I heard pottery break…’

This is the voice I am after. It has to be stopped. I have struggled against the emotions this voice has evoked in the host, but I am in control now.

‘Straight ahead.

I flex and direct the host again, the arms lift, the hand grabs. The fetting knife is inserted into the other.

A scream. A groan.

I flex and the hand lets go of the knife.

‘What’s happening,’ the voice is slurred, husky, ‘Why are you doing this?’

It’s not them doing this, it’s Me!’ I think, annoyed. ‘It’s ME!’ I direct the hands, we bunch and punch. Punch. Punch.

The voice stops

Where is it?’ I send to Ocular Nerve.

Ocular Nerve takes a moment to reply

There, to the left, on the table’

I flex. We pick up the cut-off wire.  I direct both hands now, co-ordinating them around the neck of the other.  The other struggles but I direct the host to put their weight on them and they are subdued enough. We pin them to the floor. The hands pull in opposite directions… a gurgling noise.

Nothing.

Suddenly I’m struggling … the host is wrestling for control again, dammit! I flex and try to make the host respond; it’s no use, I’ve lost control.

I’m bewildered – why am in no longer in my studio? How is this happening again? The last few days have been a series of inexplicable events – time missing, things moving from where they should be to where they should not be.  I opened the fridge yesterday and found the wallet I was sure had been taken from my car. Someone is messing with my life.  The police were skeptical when I called them, said I’d been calling too frequently? I didn’t remember calling them before this.

I can smell a familiar but repulsive scent, coppery… then I see Laurie.

She is on the floor in a widening pool of blood. Her blond hair is splayed in a halo around her head, darkening where the locks curl around as if trying to keep the blood from escaping. Her beautiful eyes are half open, her nose is flattened, blood is smeared across her face. I can see the handle of my fetting knife protruding from her ribs. The shock drops me to my knees; my throat closes over the shriek that is rising. There is blood seeping from a cut around her neck. The ends of the cut-off wire dangle towards the floor. I touch her shoulder.

‘Laurie,’ I whisper, tears flooding down my face as the anguish turns to lava and melts the heart in my chest.

I look at my hands.

They are covered in blood.  The skin of the knuckles is broken and bleeding.  It can’t be… I couldn’t have.  The shock freezes me. I can’t think.

You could.  You did’

I duck reflexively.  It sounds like the voice is right here…above me? I look around, terror rising.

‘What did you say?’ I yelp, stifling the scream that is trying to get past the blockage in my throat.

‘She was stealing our strength. It’s me. You belong to me. We need to be together.’

The voice is not unfamiliar, relief starts to trickle through, warming my blood and releasing me from the shock.  It’ll be okay. I need the voice.

‘Who are you?’ I ask aloud, aware that it’s crazy to talk to an empty room. Well… empty of life.

I look again at Laurie.  A frisson of anger trickles down my spine as I acknowledge a feeling of frustration.  I’ve been having lots of trouble lately keeping focused on my art.  She keeps interfering, asking me if I am okay and if anything is wrong, if I am taking my meds.  Ridiculous.  The only thing wrong with me is her.  Was her.

I relax more.  I can feel the power surge through me as I slip away from the horror.

‘That’s right, together we are wonderful!’

I feel the host surrender itself to me: I am in control again.

I flex. Our hands reach down and unwind the cutting-off tool from her neck, sluicing off the blood with our fingers, flicking the droplets onto her face. We rise, the wire dangling from our hand.

The door is to the left.’

I am giddy with power: I want to high five Ocular Nerve, what a team! The moment I think this the host hits ourself in the eye.  I smile.

It’s my time to shine.

 

 

Till Death Do We Part

It started like any other Sunday: sleep in, shower, drink coffee, read the news on her laptop.  Today though, when she finished reading the news, she took one look at the time and hurried to get ready. She had a special meeting with at friend La Muse, the coffee shop favoured by students in the community. Today the world was a little different: she had a plan.

As a Drama student she was in love with her life:  people with like minds, a great program, lots of opportunity to hone her craft. In fact, her life was so good right now she could almost forget that she had, basically, no money.  She arrived at La Muse and slid into her usual booth shooting a smile at Sheena who nodded and started preparing her Café latte in a bowl.

The door opened again admitting Henri who grinned and made a bee-line for her.  Henri was another Drama student and while he was a tad more reserved than she was they had found common ground in their poverty. He also adored her although she wasn’t supposed to be aware of that.  That was ok though – him being in love with her would make him a more eager assistant.

As Henri dropped into the booth, Sheena came over and plunked down Quillan’s bowl.

‘I don’t suppose you are going to pay this morning?’ she asked, shaking her head in mock exasperation ‘if you weren’t such a charmer I’d ban your ass’

Quillan grabbed Sheena’s hand and brought it to her cheek ‘You know I only come here to admire your beauty’ she said, batting her eyelashes ‘the coffee is only incidental.’

Sheena’s laughter boomed and she reclaimed her hand ‘Get away from me with your flattery!’.

Once Sheena was back behind the counter, Quillan turned to Henri ‘Well? It’s decision time!  Are you in or not?’

Henri frowned and shook his head ‘well, you got balls, that’s for sure’ he held her gaze, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’

With an exaggerated grimace, Quillan sat back in the booth and glanced to the heavens for support ‘Honestly, Henri, how can you doubt me?  Have I ever led you astray?’

Lowering her voice, she continued ‘we need the money and this isn’t stealing it. If people want to donate to a sad situation, well…’ she shrugged ‘we’re making them feel better about themselves. How can boosting their self-esteem be anything but good?’

She enveloped Henri’s hands with hers, gently tapping them on the table top to emphasize her words ‘We help them, they help us – no harm, no foul’

Henri stared at Quillan’s hands as he wrestled with his decision. Abruptly he squeezed them.  ‘Fine’ he said nodding ‘Fine. I must be crazy but I’ll do it’.

Quillan sat back releasing Henri’s hands and the breath that she did not realize she had been holding.

‘Think of this as our Magnum Opus! Our Chef D’oeuvre!’  With ill concealed glee she confirmed ‘I’ll meet you outside the student union building tomorrow at 1:00pm.  The Mayor makes her speech at 1:30 and we need to be there before she arrives’

Henri nodded ‘I know. I meet up with you, you hand me Chester’s leash, and I wait till you give me the signal. Oh! And I need to bring an empty backpack.’

‘Exactly. When it’s all over you head back to my place and I’ll meet you there as soon as I can’ Quillan scooted out of the booth and grabbed Henri in an impromptu hug ‘And then our money problems will be over!’ she sang into Henri’s ear.

Henri squirmed and pushed her away, face going bright red ‘Quill! Let go – geeze!’

Quillan planted a big kiss on his forehead then released him.  Dancing backwards excitedly she waved ‘See you tomorrow!’

 

She burst into her apartment, slamming the door, and throwing her purse and jacket on the floor. ‘Chester!’

The skittering of claws on hardwood heralded the arrival of her Chihuahua. ‘OMG!’ she shouted.

The dog dropped to the floor so suddenly his momentum kept him sliding across the wood, eyes closed, tongue lolling: lifeless.

‘Chester! Chester!!’  she raced to the dog, dropping to her knees.

Quillan ran her hands over the animal, feeling his chest, leaning down and listening for breath. Not a twitch.

She picked him up and the dog hung from her hands: head down, limbs limp and totally unresponsive. Quillan held him for a few seconds, then smiled.

‘Orange’ she whispered into the prone animal’s ear.

Obediently Chester’s eyes popped open and his tail started to wag.  With unrestrained enthusiasm, he squirmed around and started licking Quillan’s face.  Falling back with a giggle, she allowed the dog to adore her as he should.  Months of training had gone into that trick. Weeks of patiently working to overcome the dog’s instincts and leverage his need to please.

Initially she had no idea this trick could be anything other than a great attention getter.  Now? She snuggled the small dog against her chest

‘You have something very important to do tomorrow’ she crooned, ‘time to earn your keep!’

Quillan bounced out of bed early the next morning, both excited and nervous for the adventure that was ahead of her.

Chester, picking up on her mood, was showing her all his tricks:  walking on his back feet, rolling over, bowing.  She smiled at his antics

‘I’m glad you are ready’ she scooped him up.  ‘You will only be on stage for a short while but your performance is the most important one!’

He licked her face enthusiastically – she was his world. Dropping him on her bed, she raced through her morning preparations and soon was ready. She glanced at the clock and frowned. It was noon and she was meeting Henri at 1… was it too early to leave?  She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and texted him.

     ‘Everything ok? Will you be on time?’  She stared at her phone impatiently, willing his answer to be instantaneous.  Finally, a chime signalled a reply had been received.

     ‘As ready as I’ll ever be.  You’re sure about this?’  

She snorted, ‘Absolutely! In for a penny, in for a lot more money! Meet you outside the centre by the gazebo.’ 

He texted back ‘K’

It had been drizzling earlier in the day and the maple leaves from last year were still here and there on the sidewalk adding a bit of bright orange to an otherwise grey spring day. Students were milling around, waiting for the Mayor of their small town to come and announce the beginning of Good Neighbour Week.  She was watching for Henri in the throng of students. Suddenly she spied him.

‘Henri!’ She called, holding Chester up and giving him the signal to bark ‘We’re over here!’

Henri waved and made his way across the sidewalk in front of the gazebo, setting his empty backpack on the ground. He fidgeted a bit, looking nervously around.

Quillan wove her arm through his, pulling him closer.  ‘It will be fine’ grinning up at him she squeezed his arm, ‘in what, maybe half an hour? Your part will be done’

Before he could answer, there was a commotion at the entrance to the gathering area.

Ok, it’s time. Watch for me and wait for my signal’ Shoving the dog into Henri’s arms, she turned and hurried across the walkway towards the student center.  Henri watched as the Mayor’s Cadillac moved slowly through the crowd towards the gazebo.  When the limo was almost in front of him, he saw Quillan appear across the walkway and nod to him.

With a deep breath, he set Chester down on the ground. It took only a second for the dog to see the love of his life across from him.  He whined and started to dance at the end of his leash.  Watching Quillan carefully, he waited for her signal.  And there it was.

While all eyes were on the Mayor, Quill squatted down on her haunches and held her arms out. That was all he needed: Chester whined and lunged to the end of the leash which Henri ‘accidentally’ dropped. Chester was off like a shot and ran in front of the Cadillac, yipping and bouncing along, happy to be rejoining his mom.

Just as he was passing the second front wheel Quinlan stood and screamed “OMG! Chester! NO!’

The dog obediently dropped like a stone, sliding to a stop against the curb of the walkway. Many students screamed, a few surged forward. Quillan ran over and fell to her knees beside the small dog, tears streaming down her face.

‘Chester!’

Henri ran over ‘He pulled the leash out of my hand! There was no warning’

Quillan shook her head ‘No.’ She ran her hands over the apparently dead dog, keening ‘He can’t be dead!’ She scooped the dog up, his head lolled to the side, tongue hanging out, limp as only Chester could be.

At that point the crowd parted and a very worried Mayor made her way to Quillan’s side.

‘I have no idea what happened’ She exclaimed ‘He came out of no where’

Quillan jumped up, dead dog in her arms ‘That doesn’t make it ok!’ she screamed, snot and tears dripping down her face ‘he was my baby!’

She sank to her knees again. Henri, bent down, ‘Baby’ he said softly ‘Why don’t we take Chester to the vet?’

She shoved him away unceremoniously ‘What is a vet going to do?’ anger and fresh tears, ‘Unless it’s Frankenstein I think we know there isn’t anything he can do!’

She burrowed her face into the dog’s fur, assessing the situation, trying to decide if it was time to move to the next phase.  Henri apparently thought so as he took her firmly by the arm and pulled her to her feet.

Gently he pried Chester’s lifeless body from her arms. This was a tricky moment because if Chester felt that the ‘game’ was over he could miraculously come back to life and that would be very hard to explain.

Quillan released the dog, as was the plan, while Chester remained profoundly dead. When Henri stepped back, hugging the dog to his chest, Quillan started the redirect.

‘No!’ she shouted, lunging at Henri. As she had hoped, one of the people from the gathered crowd stepped forward and grabbed her arm, stopping her.  Shaking his grip off, she rounded on him and yelled ‘let go of me you creep!’

She looked around wildly but as agreed, Henri had melted into the crowd; he and Chester were no where to be seen.  Without a moments hesitation, Quillan fell into a dead faint.

‘Omg!’ Yelled the Mayor while people gathered around Quillan ‘Bring blankets and a bottle of water! ‘she directed her assistant ‘Hurry!’.

Henri, head down, pushed through the crowd carrying the dead dog. People reached for him, squeezing his arm, patting his back, wordlessly giving their condolences. Once he got around the side of the student center, he stepped into an ATM booth and quickly opened the empty backpack he still carried.

‘Orange’ he said quietly to the dog.

Chester’s eyes popped open and his tail started to wag. He licked Henri’s face and then looked around.

‘She’s still working’ Henri laughed knowing the dog was looking for Quill.  He took a couple of dog treats out of his pocket and put them in the backpack.  Chester jumped into the bag willingly, and Henri flipped the bag closed.

‘Ok Henri’ he muttered ‘One more thing to do, then I’m out of here’.  He checked to make sure the key to Quill’s apartment was in his pocket. ‘She better have some beer in her fridge’ he thought ‘it has been quite a day already…’

When the Mayor tucked the blanket around Quillan, she allowed herself to be revived.  ‘where is my dog’ she whispered.

Mayor Ness frowned and took Quillan’s hand.  ‘Your friend took him away’ she said gently ‘But let’s worry about you right now…’

Quillan affected a tremor and started to cry again ‘He was all I had left! My parents are gone; I have no brothers or sisters… I lost my job, my tuition is overdue… he was all I had left. And then you’ the crying became louder and her words were punctuated with sobs ‘You… ran… over… my… d-d-dog!’

Mayor Ness sat back on her heels distraught ‘I’m so sorry’ she said wringing her hands ‘I don’t know what we can do’.

From back in the crowd someone yelled ‘lets do a collection for her!’ Quillan had to steel herself to keep the smile from her face.  Good old Henri, his timing could not have been better.

Mayor Ness clapped her hands ‘A wonderful idea!’ She stood and motioned to her assistant again ‘Bring me my bag and the ice bucket from the back of the car – we can use that for the donation tin’ She turned back to Quillan ‘Don’t worry my dear, we can’t bring your dog back, but we can get you back on your feet’.

Henri shouldered the backpack and turned, relief that his part was done overshadowing the niggling feeling that something was wrong.  He took two steps then spun around, shaking the bag from his shoulder, pulling it wide open and looking frantically for a dog that was obviously not there.  Chester was gone.

Quillan struggled to a sitting position, pulling the blanket from her legs and wrapping it around her shoulders.  She gave teary smiles to the people around her, patting the hands that were on her shoulder helping arrange the blanket. Since the Mayor put her $200 into the tin, students had been filing by steadily, dropping loonies, toonies, and bills into the rapidly filling bucket, murmuring their condolences and wiping some of their own tears.

This was going exactly to plan; she could not wait till she got back to her apartment. In a while she and Henri could celebrate with a beer and, of course, some steak for her little star.

‘Hey!’ someone yelled.

She looked up to see the lolling tongue and cheeky grin of Chester seconds before he barrelled into her chest.

‘He was only stunned!’ someone yelled. A cheer started in the crowd and the Mayor turned to look at Quillan with relief ‘Amazing!’

In a few days when Quillan had the time to reflect on this moment, she would realize that she could have pulled this out of the fire – she could have feigned the same amazement as everyone else, been reunited with her beloved pet, and still managed to get a bob or two out of that crowd.  But hindsight is always 20/20.

In the moment, Quillan reflexively pushed the dog away from her ‘OMG Chester!’ she shouted angrily.  And the dog, wanting only to please his mistress, fell to the grass, dead.

No Good Deed…

Ok People – Here is the entry for round 2 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge.  My genre was Fantasy (Why I keep getting it is beyond me – so not my comfort zone).. the location had to be a Fish Farm,  and the object I had to write in was a beach ball.  I did my best  🙂

No Good Deed…

Sometimes helping is not always appreciated.

Being alone on the sea at night was something he loved, especially on a night like tonight when the moon was absent and the water was still and black.   Growing up in Newfoundland there was no way you could get away from it; seawater ran in your veins.  The creak of the oars and splash of the water against his dory were familiar sounds throughout his life and tonight served as a reminder of his purpose.

He rowed up to the first cage, marked with a beach ball of all things – the red and blue colours weren’t as noticeable without moonlight but the white glowed like a beacon.  He locked his oars and moved forward in the boat, leaning over to grab the floaters that marked the top of the enclosure.  The government put this fish farm right on a scallop bed and despite the local fishermen explaining that the scallop bed was a sensitive area and that the fish farm needed to be moved, the government wasn’t listening.  Well, he was going get rid of this thing himself, one cage at a time and one night at a time if that’s what it took.

He flipped open the hatch and reached in, hauling on the chain that kept the cage tethered to the bottom. It came up a bit then stopped.  ‘Come on!’ he grumbled; the chain should have quite a bit of slack – he’d had no problem the last two nights he’d done this. He leaned over the boat a bit more, steadying himself by stuffing his foot under the bench seat, and plunging his arms further into the cold salt water.  Now his cuffs were soaking and his hands were becoming numb from the cold.  He closed his eyes, feeling down the chain and wondering what on earth he would do if he couldn’t get the chain to play out.

So fixed on his task was he, that it took a moment for the change in the water to register, but when it did his eyes popped open and he gaped. He wrenched his foot out from under the seat and scrambled back to the oars.  A cold sweat broke out on his back, what the hell was going on?  The surface of the water was churning and foaming around the boat. Before he could grab the oars and retreat, his boat started to rise, rocking violently from side to side, buoyed up by a column of green water beneath him.  Terrified, he grabbed the sides of his small craft.

The water abruptly fell away and the boat plummeted to the surface.  A great whirlpool appeared below and the boat plunged into the water, caught in the swirling vortex.  Hanging on for dear life, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he was pulled under. It was no use, he was wrenched from his boat and sent tumbling through the current.  He held his breath until he felt his lungs would burst, flailing against the water with his arms and legs. Finally he succumbed, inhaling reflexively. Water swirled into his mouth and down into his lungs and he wondered briefly how long death would take.  It took him a second to realize that he was no longer out of air.  Exhaling, he could feel the water flowing out of his mouth.  Cautiously he inhaled and felt the water flow back into his lungs. Somehow he was breathing the water.  Amazed, he opened his eyes.  Observing him from all around was every kind of fish he could think of and many he had never before seen: turbot, grouper, salmon, tiny fish with brilliant neon colours, large fish with metallic hues, red fish with bright yellow bellies, iridescent green fish with dark spots and luminous fins. He had never seen such a riot of colours and sizes. They floated, not moving. He looked down and saw lanky arms of seaweed reaching up to him from the bottom, and above him the surface was like looking into a huge mirror, reflecting all the colourful fish around him.  But… he could not see himself at all. A thrill of panic ran down his spine and he looked at his hands and saw – nothing.  He tried to hold his foot up, stretch his leg in front of him, but it was impossible.  He turned his head to the left and could see a long pink flank that ended in a big fan tail gleaming and twinkling in the glowing water.  He turned his head to the right and there was the identical side of that flank.  ‘What have you done?’  He screamed at the assembled fish, but only a bubble shot from his mouth.

A large silver salmon sidled up to him, he could feel the flank of the fish sliding against his own. Suddenly his tail was caught in a strong grip and he was being pulled backwards through the water. He tried to struggle but wasn’t used to this new body and could not control his movements well enough for it to be of any use.

He felt himself being towed inexorably towards the surface, all the fish that had surrounded him following behind.  They were approaching something, but before he could digest this info the salmon gave a mighty leap and they broke the surface.  Suddenly the salmon released its grip, and he was tumbling through the suffocating air. Crashing into something solid, he began wriggling madly, trying to get back into the water. Success! He slid back into the waves once again.  He tried to swim further underneath, wiggling his tail and gaining some momentum.   Abruptly he bashed his face against some mesh. He turned his head and used his tail to move in a different direction. Seconds later he bashed his face against some mesh again.  He stopped, horror blooming as the meaning of this trickled into his brain. His eyes locked on the bottom of the beach ball floating above his head.