Poll

One vote per - please give them both a read.

Crawl Space
6 (54.5%)
Drill
5 (45.5%)

Total Members Voted: 10

Voting closed: March 31, 2014, 07:47:42 AM

Author Topic: Short story #17 voting! ***Voting has closed***  (Read 1298 times)

Offline redmeat73

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Short story #17 voting! ***Voting has closed***
« on: March 24, 2014, 07:47:42 AM »
We were treated to two really excellent submissions, I'm sure you'll all agree. However, one has to be crowned Short story #17 champion and the winner by a single vote is...Crawl Space by 510bhan!!!! (feel free to hate her for winning everything all the time... ;) ;))

Commiserations to Eric but yours was most entertaining as well mate!


Over to you 510bhan.


Matt..





****VOTING CLOSED****



Only two stories to choose from but both are well worth your consideration. You have but one vote each, so spend it wisely.


Sorry this is late but Sky cut my broadband off before connecting fiber.  :P


1- Crawl Space.

Lauren peeked round the lounge door where MTV flickered soundlessly. On the sofa, her older sister, headphones on, eyes closed, drummed a beat on her thighs. Lauren tucked the matchbox into her pocket and tugged her dressing gown belt tighter, breath held as she eased open the fly-screen. She checked behind and waited for the door to reach its creaking point. The top catch began its gradual withdrawal, but she watched closely, aware of the sudden snap about to be made.

Pff-zzap! Startled, she muffled a gasp. Phew! Just the electric fly trap in the kitchen. Silence returned. In the porch-light glow she looked for something to stall the door’s usual slam. With nothing nearby, her fingers wedged between the frame and the door edge. Wincing as it pinched, it only clicked when she slipped her small hand free.

On the veranda, she gulped a lungful of air and crept over the wooden boards to the steps. Crouched, she stopped to pinpoint sounds in the dark. Crickets chirruped, frogs and cicadas chittered their night songs. Unidentified birds and possums rustled the jacarandas. Lauren tiptoed down to the yard to the entrance under the house and gave another check over her shoulder.

The closer she got to the space, the quicker her heart beat. Breezed shadows made her approach wary. She mustn’t rush. She mustn’t make a sound. If they heard her coming it might frighten them. Besides, if her sister caught her. . .

Snowflake’s disappearance yesterday intrigued her. She must have gone off to find a quiet place to birth her litter. Lauren wondered how many kittens Snowflake would have and what colour they might be. She snuck round to the lattice gate and peeked through, hoping to catch a glimpse of the white cat in the gloom. Dirt and leaves stuck to her nightclothes as she lay on her belly to get a better look. Hair fell over her eyes and she swept it back, fumbling then in her pocket for the matches. Just as the box rattled, she heard mewling and peered once more into the darkness.

“Snowflake, it’s me. Have you had your babies yet?”

A whining miaow sounded in the crawl space, followed by a hiss.

“It’s okay, I just want to see them. I won’t touch.

Convinced she had reassured the cat, Lauren prised back the rickety gate and squeezed through the gap. Splinters snagged her pyjama bottoms, but she tugged them free and carried on slithering past bits of windblown paper and dried leaves.

With the floor overhead blocking the light she struggled to see. She rolled sideways and pulled herself along by gripping the beams above. “Snow-flake, here kitty-kitty.” She huffed out an exasperated breath and struck a match. The flame didn’t last long and its sudden brightness confused her vision. Lauren blinked and lit another match, prepared this time for the glow. As her eyes adjusted to the match light, she tried to familiarise herself with the area. She had a good idea of the layout underneath the house and made note of where different things were. She tried to guess where Snowflake might have nested. Everywhere was dark and sheltered.
The flame scorched her fingers before it died. “Ouch.” She lit another match, carefully extending it in front of her so that it wouldn’t blow out. “Come on Snowflake. Where are you?”

Miaow. Hiss.

Lauren jolted. She banged her head. The match dropped. Hair on her arms stood upright on goose-pimpled flesh. The hiss wasn’t from Snowflake. She rubbed the bump that had risen and gulped when she saw a knot of new hatchling snakes . . . squirming less than three feet from her.

“Snowflake!”

A spark flew up from the leaf and paper tinder. Lauren swatted at it, but more grew from where it landed, while other patches smouldered and petered out.

The snake hissed again. Snowflake miaowed somewhere close by. The kittens!

Smoke curls wisped by. She turned and coughed, screwed up her eyes and covered her nose. As she shuffled back to retreat she heard her hair frazzle. Instantly her hands slapped at it to smother any flames. The reek made her feel sick.

Panic surged. Fire. A nesting snake. Kittens. Tears trickled down the side of her nose. Everything felt the same. Her hands scrabbled in the dirt as she pulled herself along blindly. If she stayed in a straight line she’d reach the lattice. Lauren smelt singed hair again and rolled to suffocate it. Her legs kicked madly for the fence surround, but they met only air. Choked by dust and smoke in the shallow confines, she couldn’t scream.

She crept on her elbows until she saw a chink of light through the diamond shapes of the wooden slats. Fresh air wafted close. Her hand reached forward to wobble the slats loose. It didn’t work. With fingers tightened around the strips, she pulled again. Damn. She pivoted on her rump, drew her knees up and gave a hefty two-footed kick. Encouraged by the cracking sound, Lauren gave another double kick and winced as her feet smashed through, scraping her ankles.

A smile of relief flitted across her face before a grimace of pain replaced it. After a twist and a turn she faced the hole and bent the broken bits back and forth to snap them off. If she could fit her head through, she could escape.

Something brushed against her neck. Instinct froze her. A snake. She sucked air through her nostrils as quietly as she could, waiting for the serpent to slither away. Seconds seemed to last as long as minutes – one elephant, two elephants, three elephants. By the time she reached twelve, the creature’s touch had gone. Her shoulders relaxed and she glanced behind. The dust raised by her kicking and crawling had extinguished any flickers nearby, but it was still impossible to see much.

After scrambling through, Lauren lay outside looking at the stars. She stopped sobbing and wiped away tears on her cuff as she tried to work out whether the snakes might have eaten the kittens. But she’d only encountered baby snakes and the cat call she’d heard was strong—Snowflake was alive. Surely hatchlings couldn’t eat kittens, could they?

Twisting her head the side, Lauren called out again and smiled when she heard the cat’s reply.

“Okay, I’m coming for you. Hold on.”

She jumped up and ran along to the gate she had entered only a few yards further from her escape hole. Matches hadn’t been such a good idea before, so she dashed to the veranda and back inside the kitchen to search for a torch. She snatched a tea towel to bundle the kittens into. Hands clasped, she pleaded they might still be alive.

A booming, eerie noise carried on the night air. Roosting birds whooshed skywards. Lauren looked towards the direction from which it came and gasped. She tried to shake off her dread. Bunyips? No other explanation satisfied the horrible sound. They dwelt by the waterhole. Her parents often warned her never to venture there alone. The black fellas who called for jacaranda branches to carve into snakes and goannas always stayed away from the trees by the water. Her breaths fluttered. Another threat to the kittens.

It happened again. Closer and accompanied by screams – like something in torment. Lauren glanced back. Surely her sister must have heard. With no movement stirring in the house, she took a sharp breath and scrambled into the crawl space, using the tea towel to cover her nose and mouth. Her free hand patted the dirt in front. It landed on a soft, furry bundle which she scooped close. One, two, three. Where was the fourth? Lauren couldn’t see in the smoky darkness and scrabbled around furiously searching for the last kitten. She cried with delight when she grasped the tiny animal. The little fluff balls wriggled underneath her armpit.
Unable to breathe she abandoned the search for their mother. As she backed out of the hole, she bumped into something. Something that roared. Lauren yelped and turned to see what blocked her way.

A thing covered in shaggy fur and dripping pond weed. Its mouth hung open. Strange suckers like octopus tentacles lined the gums. And it stank.

It bent down. Lauren clutched the kittens tighter and recoiled from the inquisitive beast. She instinctively tucked her chin down, eyes scrunched shut. For a long, slow moment, Lauren endured the panting directly above her head. She dared a peek and saw the gaping maw. The thing sniffed and salivated. Green drool stained its beard.  

Slowly, imperceptibly, she crept back towards the crawl space. She needed to duck under the timber but as her shoulder dipped, the creature growled. Lauren froze.  Snakes and smoke – or a thing from the lake? Perhaps the crawl space had another exit she could navigate. The kittens mewled. Maybe they were hungry. Tiny barbs pricked her skin as they tried crawling away. Their movement, or perhaps their smell, attracted closer interest from the bunyip. Lauren forced back tears and tried herding the kittens in one safe bundle. As she plucked one from shoulder or neck, another made an escape attempt. The bunyip’s head swooped close, sniffing so hard she felt the updraft of its breath. It threw its head back and reached out huge paws.

Flames licked at her back. She jumped. The creature howled. Lauren shifted sideways. Some reignited dying ember burned with renewed energy. Lauren had to run away and somehow pass the shaggy monster and its grassy jaw.

While the bunyip wailed at the sky, Lauren bolted. One of the kittens fell. Busy snatching it to safety, she couldn’t stop the bunyip seizing Snowflake as she emerged from the dark. It tossed her into its mouth. The jaw moved up and down making horrible sucking sounds. Blood joined the filthy stains on its fur as it slurped.
Lauren tied a knot in the towel to secure the kittens and threw it under a shrub. Fighting back tears of rage she turned to the fire behind her. She snapped some of the lattice and plunged it into the angry inferno. Once alight she brandished it at the bunyip, screaming and yelling.

The bunyip backed off a step. The kittens squeaked. It looked towards the banksia shrub. “No. Go away. Go away. Get out of here. Get out.” Lauren darted between them poking the torch at the bunyip’s legs. The creature turned into a fireball. Lauren screamed. The bunyip howled. Smoke and burning fur made her retch. Encased in an orange blaze, the bunyip ran toward the waterhole. Lauren stood trembling as she watched its flight.

As she turned to retrieve the towel bundle a huge explosion toppled her. Metal from the BBQ’s gas tank split and flew in red hot splinters against the black sky, showering down on the bunyip. The sudden illumination revealed a herd – a flock – a congregation of grassy-headed monsters. Sparks showered them too. Soon the whole area beside the waterhole flared. Resins spat and fire tongues leapt. Lauren quaked as the area transformed.

Her sister’s holler carried above the crackling sounds. “What the . . . Lauren. Lauren, come here, right now. Now, you silly little . . .”

Lauren turned, running to her sister. Unable to explain anything, she stood trembling.

“Are you all right?” Cassie grabbed her shoulders. “Oh, Jeez, are you okay kiddo?” She hugged her close.

Lauren pointed to the waterhole where already the fire had consumed itself. Patches of smouldering grass here and there gave off weak smoke curls.

“Talk to me.”


*****

By the time they completed repairs on the house the kittens had grown into cats. Lauren had hand-fed them with Cassie’s help. The waterhole plants regenerated and the area returned to its lush appearance. Growing among the rocks, not one, but eighteen yaccas with their grassy heads had sprouted. Had there been that many bunyips lurking that night?

PTO...

« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 11:07:55 AM by redmeat73 »
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion...

Offline redmeat73

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Re: Short story #17 voting!
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2014, 07:48:12 AM »
2- Drill.


Blake yawned and glanced at the time on the corner of the PC monitor. Time is going backwards, I swear.

He clicked on his email inbox - four more since the last time he checked, twenty minutes ago.  

Junk - Delete, Junk- Delete, sort out tomorrow.  Jesus, Elaine in Human Resources won’t stop hassling me for the feedback form on that training session, I’ll sort that out tomorrow as well.

A piercing alarm made Blake jump, and the act of jerking like that made him feel embarrassed and annoyed all at the same time.

Blake looked around at his colleagues, who seemed unphased by the alarm, still ringing. Christ, you could probably fire a gun in here and no-one would bat an eyelid.

He wasn’t used to shouting, but he had to in this racket, to make himself heard over the alarm. “Er guys, I think this may be real. There was no drill scheduled for this week. ”

Blake opened his top drawer and took out a fluorescent yellow bib with the words “Fire Monitor” printed across the back, and proceeded to pull it over his head.  God I hate wearing this thing.  It makes me look like such an idiot.

The girls from accounts were already at the coat stand putting on their jackets, they were looking at Blake and giggling. Damn this safety bib.

Mark, the book-keeper was standing by the door, rolling a cigarette.

Blake, now fully “uniformed”, declared in his most authoritative voice “Okay guys, you know the drill. Don’t panic. Don’t use the lift. I’ll grab the signing-in book and check the toilets. Bob – come on, we need to get out.”  The small crowd quickly ushered themselves through the door into the reception area and out of sight.

Bob looked up. “I just need to save this. I’ve been working on it for two hours.”  

Blake noticed Marlene was still at her desk on the other side of the office as well. It’s always Bob and Marlene. Why do they make my life so hard?

Blake rushed over to Marlene. “Marlene, come on we need to get out of here and go to the meeting point at the church.”

“It’s pouring down outside”.  Marlene continued typing at her keyboard.

“Well grab an umbrella from behind the reception desk then. It’s not rocket science. “

Marlene stopped typing and looked up at Blake.

“May I just remind you Blake, that I am a grade above you here, and I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that by junior members of staff.“  

“Sorry Marlene, but this is my job. I’m supposed to be the last one out.  I didn’t mean to come across as rude.”
Marlene sighed as she stood.

God I hate her.  I’ve been here longer than her as well. How the hell is she a grade above me?

“You nearly done there, Bob?” Blake shouted back. “I’m just going to check the toilets”. Bob made a grand gesture of tapping a button on his keyboard, jumping up, and putting two fingers in salute against his forehead as he shouted “Aye, Aye Captain!”
 
Marlene was at the coat stand putting on her faux fur, scarlet faced and frowning at Blake.

---------------------

In the hall, Blake stood in front of the Ladies toilet. He knocked. No answer. Good. He slowly opened the door and peered around the corner. “Hello?” His words sounded feeble, but the alarm was barely audible in here. No “engaged” signs on the cubicles. No answer. Right. That’s the hard part over.

He walked into the men’s toilet. No-one appeared to be around. All of the cubicles were open.  It dawned on him that he did need to use the toilet - and for “number two’s” as well. He didn’t usually like “going” at work, but everyone had left the floor now.  He entered a cubicle, took some tissue and wiped the seat, pulled down his trousers and underwear in one fluid movement (but being careful to keep his legs stretched enough that they didn’t touch the floor), and sat on the cold hard seat. Shouldn’t take too long. I’ll just say I was checking the floor above as well.

That’s when the lights went out.  As the toilets were in the centre of the building, with no windows on any side, it was immediately pitch black. If he wasn’t already in the middle of relieving his bowels, he certainly would have needed to now.
“Ha..Okay. Very Funny. There’s someone in here. You can turn the lights back on now!”  His voice faded as what little attempt at bravery he had in him drained.

He jumped again as his phone vibrated in his shirt pocket.
Bruno Mars blasted out “the Lazy Song” as he fumbled for it.
He looked at the small screen. It was Laura. He tapped the pick-up symbol.

“Hi babe.  I’m just in the middle of…” Blake was cut short by the sound of Laura’s terrified voice on the line.

“Blake. Listen the phone lines are *crackle*. We don’t *crackle* long. Keep in touch on Facebook, for *crackle* reason the internet’s still working.”

“Wha?” Blake stumbled over his words trying to make sense of the situation. “Slow down, hon. What’s going on?”

“Don’t go *crackle*..side. Open *crackle* Facebook *crackle*”  

Silence.

Blake stared at his phone.

What just happened?

He swiped back to the home screen and tapped the blue “F” symbol. A moment to load, then Blake’s eye was immediately drawn to the red number in the top right corner. 148 notifications. One Hundred and Forty-Eight?

He clicked on the red number. A series of messages filled the screen.

Gloria Jones  - Thumbnail picture of a puppy, asleep  - “If anyone can read this I’m trapped in the attic at 429 Acacia Avenue. I can hear them downstairs. Please help me!”

Richard Williams – Thumbnail picture of him underwater diving – “The hospital is overrun. Don’t come here.”

Michael Kennaugh – Thumbnail with wife, kids and Mickey Mouse – “Been bitten, locked myself in the toilet at Café Uno.  Betty’s not answering her phone. Tell my family I love them. x”

He quickly scanned through the messages until one caught his eye.

Laura Corlett – Thumbnail picture of her with Blake at the beach last summer – “Does anyone know what is wrong with this people in the street. Is it a riot? I saw someone biting a woman."

Laura?

He swiped the screen down to another update:

Laura Corlett – “It was just on the news that it’s spreading too quickly for them to find a cure. The phone lines are all bad. Is anyone near Fiduciary Services International on Victoria Street? Please find my husband Blake Corlett and tell him I’m at home. There are lots of them in the street. I’m scared.”

He quickly pressed the close button, swiped through the contacts and tapped the "call" symbol next to Laura’s name.

Silence.

Swipe back to Home. Tools. Options. Flashlight.  A small bright beam appeared from the top of the phone. Blake stood and balanced it on the back of the cistern as he quickly wiped himself, flushed and dressed.

Holding his phone in one hand he opened the cubicle door and slowly made his way over to open the door that led to the hall. He could see that the pale green emergency lighting was on through the window of the security door leading into the stairwell. He could now hear some sort of commotion going on below.  It occurred to him that the alarm had stopped. The dim green light from the stairwell was beckoning him.

What the hell is that noise?

The keypad next to the stairwell seemed to be still working. The letters were lit up at least. He tapped in “4719” and the door clicked open.

The noise was louder now.  Groaning. The distant sound of screaming. And it sounded like...what? Chewing?

In the faint green light he could see hands clutching at the railing a couple of floors down. They were coming up the stairwell.

 “Hello? Who is that? It’s Blake from Fiduciary on the third floor. Is it safe to come down?”

No answer. The sound of groaning was getting louder and the hands on the railings seemed to be sliding erratically.  There were a lot of them as well, as far as he could tell. It was so dark down there.

“Hello? Will someone please answer me?”

Someone rounded the corner in front of him, which he wasn’t expecting.

“Tanya? Are you okay?” It was Tanya from accounts. “God, you look like shit. No offence.”  

Her face was pale, her teeth were black and her eyes were bloodshot. In this light it was hard to tell but it looked like she was covered in some sort of dark liquid. That can’t be blood. Can it?

“What’s going on down there?” He asked hesitantly.  Tanya opened her mouth and a groan came out.

Julie and Brenda, the other girls from accounts slowly appeared behind her.  They looked even worse. Brenda’s face appeared to have skin hanging from the cheek, revealing what looked like her jaw underneath, and her eyes were sunken and red. She too had a dark liquid all over her clothes, and most of her mouth and chin. Julie was in a similar state, except she had gone for this season’s “missing lips and baring your rotten teeth” look. All three of them were groaning now.   Just behind them, Blake could make out other figures moving slowly up the stairs. Tanya let out an awful groan and fell over as she reached out to him.

He turned and sprinted back into the hall, and pushed the exit door back into place until it clicked. He could see through the safety glass that there were a lot of people coming up now. Behind the girls from accounts he could see Mr. Barridale, the manager. He was holding, and chewing on, what looked like a human foot. What the hell?

Blake could feel his lunch in his stomach trying to push its way back up. His saliva glands were pumping out lubrication in anticipation of the coming event.  He held out his mobile phone for light and ran into the toilet - the same cubicle - locked the door, then retched up his BLT on rye bread ciabatta into the bowl. Take a deep breath.

He flipped open his phone again and pressed on the Facebook symbol. Not as many messages now. He swiped through the messages. Becky Dobson, picture of kids opening Christmas presents. Tom Allen. Hilarious picture of a kitten being held up at gunpoint. Laura Corlett.

Tap.

Laura Corlett. “They’re in the house. Tell Blake I love him.”

He quickly tapped  the “call” symbol.

It was ringing. An answer.

“Hello? Laura?”

Then a sound Blake would never forget.

A horrifying, inhuman wail.

Time froze. The phone was slipping from his hand as the sound of thumping against the exit door snapped him back into reality.  

He opened the cubicle door and used the light from the phone to guide him to the sink.  

Tears streaming down his face, adrenaline pumping now, he punched the mirror. Glass shattered everywhere. He picked up a manageable piece and dropped the phone to the floor. Enveloped in darkness, he started slashing desperately at his wrists.

His last thought as he slumped to the ground and noticed the beam of light from the phone shining a shaft into the corner of the ceiling, was “I don’t remember a security camera being in here.”

--------------

“Okay, we’re here with Laura Corlett and with the help of his colleagues, and our fantastic make up and technical team, we’ve tricked her husband Blake into thinking he’s in the middle of a Zombie apocalypse. Come on Laura, let’s go into the bathroom and surprise him. Oh shit. Oh God. Fuck No. Cut the cameras. CUT THE FUCKING CAMERAS.”


Good luck to both and get reading guys!


Modified to correct spacing.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 08:52:34 PM by DistantSun »
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion...

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Short story #17 voting! ***Voting has closed***
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2014, 11:57:34 AM »
Thank you -- I think. ;D

Got there by a smoke wisp. :)

Shall ponder a new challenge and post it soon.

Thank you everyone who voted for my story. ;)

Offline ericthehalfabee

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Re: Short story #17 voting! ***Voting has closed***
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2014, 02:00:52 PM »
Well done! And thanks also to whoever took the time to read and vote for "drill".  ;D ;D

Offline 2par

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Re: Short story #17 voting! ***Voting has closed***
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2014, 02:07:06 PM »
It was a hard choice. Congratulations to you both