….from the incomparable Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds. Go here (his site) for this wonderful prompt. Here is my particular take from Inspirobot. What is that you say? Well, just go over to Chuck’s wonderful page and you’ll find out.
Anyway, here is my story, generated by said Inspirobot prompt. Feel free to leave a comment.
Inspirobot: “First the problem, then the sound.” (exactly 1,000 words)
Lee would definitely say he was in one hell of a predicament. First of all, he had no fucking idea where the hell he was. Secondly, it was pitch black and very quiet. He couldn’t hear a damn thing, save his labored breathing and rapid heartbeat.
Lee could not see a damn thing in front of his eyes, and he was quite certain they were open. But then again, given his present Stygian world beyond his dilated staring orbs, a sense of doubt entered his heightened soul. A sense of doubt—and dread.
Where in Christ’s name was he? How the hell did he get here? He tried to recall where he had been before he awoke to this dark nightmare, who he had been with, what could possibly have led him here to this hideous midnight realm.
“Ok, Lee, calm down, for chrissakes. Gettin’ all het up ain’t goin’ to help.” Talking to himself gave him a moment of calm. Yet the dread lingered. It felt like the time he snorkeled in the Bahamas, and his friend decided to head for shore for more beer, leaving him out in open water. Alone, with nothing beside, above, or below him but ocean. Surfacing, he had the awful feeling some unseen creature was circling him, silently narrowing its approach, waiting for the right moment to strike, with a maw filled with razor-sharp teeth.
‘First the problem’ suddenly popped in his mind, something his 10th grade algebra teacher said with frequency. Mr. Luce had stood before the chalkboard, writing an impossible formula down with his right hand while rubbing his left through his thinned white hair, leaving streaks of yellow on his forehead. He had a habit of rocking back and forth and, when he finally turned around to the chalkboard, had yellow chalk streaks all over his ill-fitting store rack suit.
‘Okay, Lee, first the problem,’ he said to himself as he reached into the darkness, searching for anything out there but the floor. He felt nothing. The silence was starting to get to him as well. How could there not be any noise, besides his own trembled breathing and thumping heart?
He dared not stand up. Better to crawl around, slowly, and reach out for anything that might be out there. “Where the fuck am I?” he asked into the void. “Hello! Is there anyone out there?” he said and chuckled, recalling the line from a Pink Floyd song.
Then he heard a sound.
“Is…is there anyone in here?” he asked, hoping whatever made that brief sound was indeed a person. “Hello?…”
He stopped. Again that sound. Off to his left. In the distance. How fucking big was this room? If it was a room. He had no idea.
Lee froze and listened, breathing shallow and trying to get his goddamn heart rate down.
There it was, a low scraping sound. Only closer. To him. He dared not utter a word. Who knew if whatever made that sound was even friendly. He regretted asking if anyone was out there. He should have said any ‘thing’.
Another sound. This time, off to his right, like a clatter of claws on concrete.
Something whizzed by his head, a flutter of wet leathery wings, strong and powerful.
Lee sat down and slowly moved backward, scuttling along on his butt, reaching out behind him, feeling for anything at all.
A sudden low moan erupted out of the dark, and then a high-pitched anguished wail.
He had enough. “Hello!’ he yelled into the void. “Okay, enough is enough! Joke’s over. C’mon, let me outta here!”
‘Damn it’, he thought. ‘I gotta get out.’ He stood up shakily and tried to get his balance, wondering how in hell blind people managed to maneuver.
He shuffled forward—and stopped.
That mewling sound, like something wounded—or hungry—was closer.
The hairs on his neck stood erect. The fear coursed through his skin, a sixth sense that some thing was behind him, hovering over his shoulders, something large and foul and terrible.
Lee stayed rooted in place, his breath ragged. In the darkness he could sense the creature inching closer, could feel its rank hot fetid breath, the wetness of jaws and teeth working before feasting on flesh. His flesh.
The stench of rotted meat edged closer to his neck, muzzle open wide, the click of talons ready to shred, claws grazed his nape—
Lights suddenly flooded his eyes. The nightmarish experience was over.
“Helluva a trip you had there, Buddy!” Kevin laughed, offering him an ice cold beer.
“Jesus,” Lee exhaled. “ Damn! That was real! I…I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”
“I told you, didn’t I? The new virtual reality is sick.”
Lee got up and headed to the john. Standing at the sink washing his hands, he felt a burning sensation on his neck. He craned his neck to get a better look.
Near his carotid was a long red streak, a scratch made by…what? Maybe the new VR wasn’t all that virtual. Maybe something did happen to him.
He left the bathroom and went to the kitchen to fetch another beer.
“Hey, Kevin,” he called out. “Ready for a frosty?” He cracked two longneck Coors and walked toward the living room. “Kev, I—”
He dropped the beers, the bottles hitting the floor, suds flowing over the bamboo floors. Lee’s eyes widened, the scene before him incomprehensible.
Sprawled on his La-Z-Boy, Kevin was in no condition to answer. The VR goggles still covered his eyes, but his throat…his throat was torn and bloodied, flaps of raw skin plastered on the chair and Kevin’s shredded shirt.
As Lee edged closer, he heard a faint sound coming from the console. He strained to listen and then he heard it; a low mewling wet sound, a smacking of lips, and then the horrible scrape of claws on concrete, a faint cackle, receding in the distance.
Copyright Paul Grignon-2017