Tag: short fiction

Flight 374

The flight from New York to LA takes just over 6 hours.

Martin VonBraun hugged his brother Joe goodbye at airport security. He spent some time in duty-free before he headed to Gate 7A. Joeseph made his way back into the city, through crowded tubes and up a cramped escalator to his office. He sat down at his desk as flight 374 was taking off from New York airport.

An hour later, Martin was sitting back and choosing which in-flight movie to watch. Joe was pouring over a legal case on his desk, feeling a little too hot. He called his secretary to open the window.

Two hours into the flight, Martin got up to use the bathroom. Joe was in a bathroom too, vomiting blood.

At hour three, Martin was asleep. Joe was paralyzed, but fully conscious.

At hour five, Joe watched as his fingers shriveled and turned black. Martin ordered a beer from the flight attendant.

The flight from New York to LA takes just over 6 hours. Parasite X kills its host 5 hours and 11 minutes from the time of infection.

Flight 374 was delayed coming into LA airport. Nobody from air traffic control would answer them. When they did eventually pluck up the courage to land, it appeared from the air that all flights had been grounded. As they came closer,  they saw the corpses littering the runways. Blackened and shriveled, like a fire had spread through every living person, leaving all else untouched.

The plane sat on the runway, but nobody ran out to meet them and nobody dared leave. They checked their phones. Messages from loved ones came through- emotional jigsaw pieces of the last 6 hours, as the parasite had infected and taken down the country. Possibly the world. The pilot radioed out. Perhaps there were other flights full of the uninfected. Perhaps there were more than these 204 survivors. Or perhaps not. It would only take one infected passenger to take down the whole plane. Maybe they’d all just been lucky.

Martin’s thought about calling his brother, but he couldn’t seem to move his fingers. The corpse of Joe VonBraun lay in a silent office, surrounded by so many more. His dead fingers curled against the floor. The parasite inside him, still hungry, took root in his brain. Joe was gone, but his fingers twitched. His eyes opened.


Via Daily Prompt: Infect

Black Noise

I don’t hear things like you do. I hear them in colours.

It doesn’t quite translate the way you think. White noise tends to be a little pink. Finding white noise that is purely white is as difficult as finding untouched snow in a playground. There’s too much going on these days- too many radio frequencies, too many phone calls- it pollutes it all.

Water tends to speak in violet and not deep blue like you might think. Stormy seas shout to me in a loud, purple haze. Blue noise is low and kind of unsettling. You can find it in small, glowing lines around wires. Electric blue, you might say.

If the world is a canvas, it was first painted green. Not just in the trees and plants, but in the background noise too. Man-made noises throw a lot of red and brown in to the mix. They bleed together a lot and it can get messy. I used to walk in the woods a lot, away from the city, to try and find that undiluted green.

It’s the only place I’ve ever seen black noise. And I haven’t been back since.

I suppose I had always known that it must exist. For white noise to exist, black must also, and so turns the colour wheel. I just hadn’t given much thought to what that might actually mean.

I was alone in the forest, enjoying the green, when I started to notice it get darker. At first, it turned to a mossy green, but then it grew darker still- like a terrible mould had spread across the forest floor, climbing up tree trunks and turning everything to rot. I couldn’t hear anything different, but the green was fading.

And then I saw her.

She lay motionless and pale beneath a tree, deep cuts on her arms and chest, at least one of them fatal. Her mouth was open in a scream and black noise poured from it.

Silence.

Black silence, the true colour of a sound that would never be.


Usually, when I do the daily prompt I google the word for inspiration. Just to see if there’s a way of interpreting it that I hadn’t immediately thought of, or if something else sparks an idea. Today I found this cool Wikipedia page on the Colour of Noise and it was really interesting.

Via Daily Prompt: Noise

Dead Man’s Grasp

The key is kept in the dead man’s grasp.

That was it. That was all I had. A clue whispered to me through breaks in a fever dream. I held on to it tightly. I repeated it to myself over and over so it would not slip away.

I had been aware of someone in my room- a dark figure that I immediately knew was not a nurse. He came closer. He smelled of the sea. He made no noise when he walked. I did not see his face, but I did hear him whisper. The key is kept in the dead man’s grasp. I remember the moment of clarity in hearing those words. I knew exactly what he meant. I remember nodding, or at least trying to.

And then he was gone and the room was painfully bright. Monitors beeped beside me. A nurse had just finished opening my curtains. I remembered the man. I remembered his words. But I did not remember the meaning. I tried to sit up. If I could just get to the man. If I could just get him back I could ask him what he meant. The nurse gently pushed me back down. “Good to have you back with us,” he beamed at me.  He did not sound like the man. “We thought that fever might never break. It’s best if you lie still for a while, so we can keep an eye on you.”

He poured some water in to a plastic cup and handed it to me.  As I drank, I looked around. The room was familiar. I knew where I was. I’d flitted in and out of consciousness in this bed and taken some of it in. It had felt like I’d had one foot here and one foot… somewhere else. Perhaps not so much flitting in and out of consciousness, as flitting between consciousness’s. I was crushed that this reality was the one which I was now confined to.

That thought arrived in my head and, as if on some kind of cue, my family arrived in my room. We talked and they seemed happy. The talked to the doctors about keeping me in for a few more days until they were sure the fever had passed. I couldn’t really focus on any of them. They had layers they kept hidden from me and I hadn’t been able to see it until now. There were secrets in their smiles, lies hidden in their hugs and in between us there was discord between who we are and who we all thought each other to be. We were all strangers on a first name basis. I was restless until they left.

They key is kept in the dead man’s grasp.

I whispered it over and over again until the sun set. Until the main lights went out. Then I got up and put on some of the clothes on that my mother had brought me and left on a chair by my bed. I took a nurse’s pass from behind reception and walked down the stairs and through the door marked ‘Morgue.’

I checked the hands of every corpse. No keys. Nothing. The closest I came to finding anything was a scalpel blade that had been left lying beside the hand of a dead man. I picked it up anyway and held it tight.

Maybe a bit too tight. The blade cut my palm.

The pain was another moment of clarity. The first I’d felt since I woke up. All of my former grogginess was gone. I grasped it tighter. My blood ran on to the floor.

I hear it drip, drip, drip. I heard it gush. I smelled the sea.

A dark figure that I knew was not a nurse stood by the doorway. “Come home,” he whispered.

 

Via Daily Post: Grasp

The Middle of a Vanishing Act

A wisp of smoke in the pitch black. It rises up from the ground and curls, like a incandescent snake climbing towards the moonlight. From its base, cracks of crimson shoot out towards you.

You stop… in case the ground is about to fall apart. You know you should run, but your hammering, awe-filled heart keeps you to rooted to the ground.

A sound in the silence. A faint, melodic hum and a perfectly in-time drum. It grows so loud that the cracks in ground pulse. They widen.

You can smell caramel apples. And freshly-made popcorn.

The wisp of smoke starts to move like a drawing on a chalkboard. The outline of a person in a top hat and a slightly billowing jacket. Applause leaks through the cracks in the ground. The dark space between the outline grows more solid and then there she is.

The applause is gone. The music stops. The cracks are sealed without a trace. The smoke disperses in to the night. And her surprised face stares at you from under her top hat. Her suit is midnight black. Her eyes a bright and piercing green.

“Where the hell did you come from?” she asks. And you almost laugh because you feel like you could ask her the same thing.

In stead, you ask, “Who are you?” Because that feels more polite.

“I’m a conjurer,” she says, conjuring up a caramel apple and handing it to you. “I usually disappear for a break during my vanishing act… I’ve never vanished to in front of a person before.”

“Don’t they notice you’re gone?” you ask.

“I can chose the moment of time I re-appear to. It’ll be seconds to them, but I could spend a few hours here. If you wouldn’t mind?”

You don’t know what to say, so you take a bite of the apple. Warm, sweet and delicious. It has a caramel core too.

She watches you and smiles so brightly it puts stars in the sky.

via Daily Prompt: Conjure

The Reflection of You

There’s a parasite that lives behind mirrors. A detailed shadow that stares back at you when you clean your teeth or get caught in the dark screen between episodes of a Netflix show. It watches the way you walk past shop windows. It studies you from reflective surfaces at times when you think nobody is watching. It knows you better than anyone.

If you get too close it will climb through the image of itself in the reflection of your eye.

It won’t kill you right away. It will paralyse your first and take control. You will watch it live your life. Watch it do things you never wanted to. Watch destroy your relationships with people who don’t know it’s not really you. Because why would they?

It looks like you. It talks like you, walks like you. It fixes your hair like you do.

You will die and nobody will know there is a fraud living on in your skin.

via Daily Prompt: Fraud