Hey everyone, not feeling great today, really tired and nauseous. I’ve some parts of a short story done but I want to edit it when I feel a bit clearer headed, so I’m going to finish it off and post it tomorrow instead of today.
Josh reached a large outcrop of rocks, feeling a little hungry and tired he sat on one and took his lunch from his bag. It was nothing fancy, just a sandwich, a thermos full of tea and a bag of crisps. He ate slowly, enjoying the view and the warm sun on his back. The trail he was walking was easy enough but he was still struggling a little, he wasn’t used to much exercise these days. He looked at the mountains and forest that stretched out before him, he snapped a quick photo with his phone maybe if he could show Melissa how beautiful it was out here she’d be more inclined to join him. Once he finished he tidied away his things and started walking again, the trail should take him another two or three hours depending on how often he had to stop for breaks.
He never realised how loud the city was until he was out here, it was so peaceful without the constant rumble of traffic, the screaming and shouting, the thick smell of car exhaust. Out here he could hear birds chirping to one another, the rustle of the wind through the trees. It really was beautiful, even though he was feeling a little tired he felt strangely invigorated. There was something about being out here, alone with nature, it felt, good, right.
Josh pulled his phone from his pocket, he opened the text from Melissa, “Looks beautiful! Hope you’re having fun xxx” he typed out a quick response and started to put his phone back into his pocket, it slipped from his fingers, landed on the ground then bounced into the bushes. Fuck. He chased after his phone, which had slid down a small hill. He could just see it’s screen glinting in the sunlight. Cursing to himself he made his way down the hill, it was steeper than he expected and he almost slipped twice. Finally he picked up his phone and started wiping it off. Somehow the screen wasn’t cracked and it seemed mostly unharmed with only a few scratches and dents. He looked up the hill, it really was much steeper than it looked coming down, he was lucky he didn’t fall and break his neck. He started to climb it, but a few feet up the soil became loose beneath his feet sending him sliding backwards, he wasn’t going to be able to climb the hill. He looked around for a moment, he knew where the trail was, he just had to walk parallel to it until the hill dipped a little and he could climb back up. He started walking, as he went he kept his head down to watch where he was going, the last thing he needed was a root or branch to snag his ankle. He was almost in the bushes when he noticed that they weren’t just bushes, they were thick brambles with sharp thorns. The hill was still too steep and he couldn’t see where the brambles stopped but they couldn’t last forever. He could go around them easily enough and circle back.
Josh wiped some sweat from his forehead, the brambles were blocking off more and more the further he went, they were growing up the small hill and blocking any path back to the trail. He knew he just had to keep going but he was starting to get frustrated. It had been such a nice day out until he dropped his damn phone and since then things were just getting worse and worse. He stood for a moment, debating his options, he could continue trying to skirt these brambles, or he could go deeper into the woods and have a clearer path. He turned and moved into the woods, it was the fastest way to get back to the path.
Josh paused, had he heard something? It sounded like something large falling into a bush. After a few seconds he started to walk again, it was probably just some animals looking for food. He moved back towards the direction of the path, he’d been walking through the woods for a good twenty minutes now, there was no way the brambles would extend this far. He was starting to feel a little better, after all this was just a short detour and the view, though limited, was still nice. A breeze blew through the trees bringing with it the scent of sweetness, Josh breathed deeply and smiled.
Had he gotten turned around? Josh spun slowly in a circle, he thought he was walking back to the path but he’d been walking for almost ten minutes and he should have come across the brambles or the path by now. He turned and started retracing his steps, it was this way, right? He stopped. No, it was the other way. “Fuck!” why had he spun around like that? He’d gotten himself all mixed up. Josh spotted a tree and smiled triumphantly, he recognised that tree, he’d seen it only a few minutes ago, it had a reddish moss growing on it. OK, good, great, that was the way he came, he could just go back that way and it would bring him to the path. He felt a faint thread of unease in his stomach as he started to walk.
Half an hour later Josh stopped walking, he had to admit it now, he was lost. He had managed to get himself turned around somewhere, feeling a pit of dread in his stomach he pulled out his phone. It was going to be so mortifying to call for a rescue, but at this point he didn’t see what his options were, he couldn’t just traipse around the forest and hope to run across someone after all. He unlocked his phone, well that was just great. He’d no signal, of course he didn’t have any god damned signal. He took a slow breath, he just had to think this through. He had been going downhill, there were trees and mountains around it had to be blocking his signal, he just had to get higher, that was all. To his left the land sloped gently upwards, Josh started walking.
Three hours later and he still had no signal, he had tried yelling for help about two hours back but all that got him was a hoarse and dry throat. He didn’t want to drink his water too quickly, he had brought two litres of it and some tea but he didn’t know how long he’d be out here. He had to start thinking properly, he couldn’t afford to make any mistakes again. To his right he heard a branch snap, Josh turned and saw a man standing in the trees. “Oh thank god. Hi, can you help me? I’ve gotten a bit lost out here.” The man nodded, Josh started walking towards him. “I’m so lucky I ran into you, god only knows how long I’d have been stuck out here, I’m not getting any signal on my phone. If you could just direct me back to the path that would be great.” Josh stopped, the man hadn’t moved at all since that first nod and now that Josh was looking at him properly something was off. He wasn’t dressed for hiking or exercise, he wore a pair of suit trousers and a grey shirt. He looked younger than Josh had first though too, he looked to be in his mid-twenties, with a round, wide face. The man smiled at Josh, “Don’t worry, I can help.” his voice sounded strange, like it was coming from far away. Josh smiled and started walking towards the man again, he was just being silly, besides he needed help and it wasn’t like he was going to run into anyone else out here. When Josh reached him he stuck out his hand, “I’m Josh.”
“Fred.” His grip was firm and warm, Josh noticed he wasn’t wearing any shoes.
“What trail were you on?”
“I was on the green one, starting in the west car park, it’s supposed to loop around.”
“Wow, you really have gotten yourself turned around, you’re practically on the other side of the park, how long have you been out here?”
“about three or four hours since I left the trail.”
Fred shook his head, “Rule number one man, don’t leave the trail.”
“I know, I know. I dropped my phone down a hill and went after it, then I couldn’t get back up because the soil was too loose. I tried to get back but brambles were blocking me then I managed to get myself turned around.”
“It happens, easy to do out here if you’re not used to it. You’re lucky you ran into me, there’s nothing in the direction your going for miles. Assuming you kept a straight line and didn’t end up going in circles you’d have been out here for five or six days before you reached another trail.”
“C’mon lets get going, we should reach the trail and get you home before dark.”
Josh took a swig from his water bottle, “can we take a break for a second, just so I can get my breath back?”
“Sure, no problem, we’re almost there.”
Josh drank another mouthful of water, Fred leaned against a nearby tree and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, “You want one?”
“Yeah I don’t blame you. I don’t smoke all that often though, hard to get them out here.”
“Do you live in the woods?”
Fred chuckled, “No, not quite. I don’t make trips into the city all that often though, try to avoid buying them when I do. I mostly go in for shopping, get some food.” he smiled at Josh, “sometimes I get lucky though and the food brings itself to me.” he lunged at Josh, Josh yelped and dropped his water bottle, before he could do anything else Fred slammed into him, dragging him to the ground. Josh felt something hot splash across his legs, there was a deep heat coming from his stomach a second later the pain came and he started screaming. Fred stood and tucked the knife back into the back of his trousers, “Scream all you like.” He bent over and grabbed Josh by the legs then he began to drag him through the woods.
The black rains were coming, Tommy looked at the dark clouds that were rolling towards the town. He’d be stuck indoors for the next week, everyone would be. Once a year the black rain came and with it were the whisperers. They would scratch at the windows and doors, whispering promises and secrets. Tommy didn’t know what they looked like, no one did, the black rain obscured the windows and anyone who went outside during the rains was never seen again. The first raindrops began to patter against his window. Tommy watched for a few minutes until he could no longer see outside. The lamps provided some light in the rapidly growing darkness but as always they seemed dimmed somehow.
Tommy was pouring himself a drink when the first scratching started. Soft, gentle and persistent, he ignored it, it was followed a minute later by the whispers. It was too low to make out any proper words, he felt the urge to move closer to the window, to press his ear against it and listen. He turned from the window, leaving his drink behind.
It was day three and the whispering was getting worse, it was an almost constant noise in the background, when he ate, as he slept. It was relentless. The scratching and tapping were no better, at night he would scream back at them, beg and plead for them to stop, they never did.
It was the fifth day when they stopped tapping and started banging, heavy thuds against the doors and windows. They whispers were louder than ever but still he could make nothing out. It was maddening the words were there but just out of reach. He stood in front of the door, they promised him eternal life and everything else he could want, he knew it, if only he could understand what they were saying. He reached out and gripped the doorknob, it turned easily in his grip though he knew he had locked it days ago. He pulled the door open, a gust of window blew in carrying the black rain with it, it splattered over Tommy and the floor. He finally saw them. They looked like humans, dead and starving for years, their skin was grey and gaunt, their eyes were bright and feverish. They stumbled in, the whispering growing louder. They grabbed his hands, their skin cold, damp and somehow papery and with surprising strength they pulled him from his house and into the rain. The rain was cold, he felt it washing over him, coating his skin. He stumbled further into the rain, basking in it. He felt himself being pulled towards a house nearby, there was something inside, something he needed, something warm. He started scratching at the window and began to whisper with the others, begging to be let inside, promising everything they could ever want, if only they opened the door.
Hope everyone had a good weekend!
Sorry for missing Friday, I wasn’t having the greatest day Crohn’s wise and thought I posted to let everyone know, won’t happen again!
“How long have they been down there?”
“thirty-five hours, there’s still four left.”
“Four? Are you sure?”
“Yes, we’re positive, they’ve lasted much longer than any of our predictions. They might even beat the record.”
“We’re still a few hours away from that, but anything could happen.”
Ben looked down at his screen, he could see a man and a woman, covered in muck and streaks of blood, she was being half carried, half dragged by the man. Both of them looked haggard and weak, nothing like they had when they arrived a week ago, he brought up their profiles and shook his head, unrecognisable. He switched back to his view of them, they’d been separated from the others by what he almost affectionately referred to as the “Hell Beasts.”, they wouldn’t be around for much longer. Almost on cue a Hell Beast came into frame, it was about seven foot tall and bulged with muscles, it had two arms and three legs and ran with an awkward, loping gait. Its face looked similar to that of a bulldog, large, flapping jowls around the mouth, its nose jutted out in a small snout and its four eyes were grouped on either side of its head. Ben watched as the beast hunted them, though it was more playing than hunting. He winced as the Hell Beast lunged at the couple, he glanced away from the screen, “Two more down.”
“Confirmed, two remaining.”
Ben flicked his screen to the other two, now it was just sitting around until they were dead then they’d have all that data to go through. Ben didn’t really understand the point of this, but the company was paying them well enough that he didn’t question it. The people on the planet below were volunteers and while they may not have knew exactly what they were really getting themselves into, they were told of the dangers and risks.
Ben yawned and stretched, they last couple had been going now for four hours, only half an hour away from the record, everyone was on edge. The pair were hiding out in a cave system, one which they hadn’t been able to map fully, a few people suspected there was some colony of godawful creatures down there destroying the probes and cameras. The trackers on the pair still worked though, so maybe they’d get some kind of a map at least. The lights on the screen flashed twice, then went dark, someone called out “final two down.” a frisson of disappointment moved through the room, they had been so close. Ben stretched and stood up from his station, everyone else was doing the same, as he walked out of the room he heard a few people talking about getting drinks but he was far too tried, he’d been up since it all began and had popping stims to keep himself awake. All he wanted to do now was collapse on his bed and sleep for a few hours before they had to start shifting through the data, they only had a week before the next batch of twenty arrived.
There won’t be a short story today, I’ll be back with another short story on Monday, hope everyone has a good weekend!
Hi all, sorry no short story today.
I just started working in a new place (temporarily) and I’m surprisingly tired, that combined with some family stuff (Grandmother fell and broke/dislocated her wrist, she’s fine though, surgery went well!) I’ve been a bit all over the place this week.
Short stories will return from Friday on! Hope everyone is having a good week!
Unfortunately last night we had to put our dog Jessie to sleep, there won’t be a short story today.
She was a good dog and will be sorely missed.
Really sorry, there was a sudden family situation (everyone is fine!) that was unexpected and I didn’t get a chance to write anything due to a combination of running around and just completely blanking on today being Wednesday.
Hope everyone is having a good day, things will be back to normal Friday!
Cindy stared out at the rain, the gentle pitter patter of it against the window was surprisingly relaxing. The day itself was dragging along, normally people would be coming in every few minutes but with the rain it seemed like everyone had decided to just stay home for the day. She stretched and yawned, tomorrow she’d be snowed under and wishing for a break, might as well try and enjoy it for now. A couple walked past, huddled under an umbrella, Cindy was not looking forward to going home in this weather, usually she drove but Michael needed the car today so she had the pleasure of taking the bus. She didn’t mind it most days, but the bus stop had no shelter and she knew that she’d be getting soaked despite the umbrella she had brought with her.
“Hey Cindy, why don’t you head off for the day? There’s only an hour left and I don’t think things will pick up before then.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind hanging on the extra hour.”
“Nah, you might as well go and beat the traffic!”
“Thanks. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“See ya then.” Doug ducked back into his office, Cindy smiled and started gathering her things.
She stood at the glass doors for a moment, steeling herself for the wind and the rain, she pulled open the door and stepped outside, opening her umbrella as she did so. The rain and wind lashed against her, she struggled against the wind for a second then started walking. The traffic seemed light enough though she knew it would get worse in the next half hour, she walked quickly with her head down.
She arrived at the bus stop just as her bus was pulling up, with a quick jog Cindy managed to catch it. The day was turning out way better than it started. After paying her fare, she quickly found a seat and settled in for the half hour trip.
Cindy stepped off the bus, shivering slightly as the cold wind hit her, the raining had become a mere drizzle now, she put up her umbrella and started walking. It was only a short walk but it always seemed to take forever on days like this. Already she decided she would have a nice hot shower when she got home, she’d change into some pyjamas then get dinner started. She turned onto her road and stopped, there was a large puddle stretched across the street going up onto the footpath on both sides. The shores must be blocked again, Cindy groaned, there was no other way around, she’d just have to go through. She moved closer to the puddle, it didn’t seem that deep, but she knew there was a curve in the street, she’d had to walk through puddles like this on more than one occasion. After a second of indecision she slipped off her shoes and picked them up, she was going to hop into the shower right away anyway, no point in ruining them. She took a step forward, the water was warmer than she expected but still cool, she started taking slow steps but after the first couple she sped up a little. She jumped slightly as something brushed against the side of her food, she didn’t look down, she didn’t want to see what it was, because she was certain it would end up being something gross. It’s just a leaf, that’s all. It happened again, Cindy looked down just as the hand reached from the water and gripped her ankle, Cindy gasped in shock and pain as the hand tightened its grip, it pulled once and Cindy was falling, she stretched out her arms to break her fall, her hands hit the water but they didn’t hit the ground, she was still falling, her face hit the water and still she went deeper and deeper. Cindy struggled against the hand, bubbles streamed from her mouth, up above she could see the light of the puddle fading, she looked down into the growing darkness. She screamed as she saw the decaying corpse that was gripping her ankle, it leered up her through rotted lips. She struggled against him, growing weaker with each passing second, her lungs ached for oxygen, there was a sudden flare of pain in her ankle, Cindy inhaled, the water filled her lungs as she began to choke. Darkness crowded her vision, she could still see the dying light from the puddle, it seemed so tantalisingly close, her vision went black and her body lay still as the corpse dragged her deeper.
Kelly opened her eyes and felt a sudden jolt of panic, she closed them again hoping that she was still dreaming, but when she opened them she was still in the tunnel. She sat up slowly, looking around herself, how had she gotten here? The last thing she remembered was going to bed the night before and everything had been fine. She had kissed Brian goodnight and then dropped off to sleep pretty quickly. She looked down at herself and felt a chill spread through her, she wasn’t wearing her pyjamas, she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, she was barefoot. The air felt warm and humid and almost like it was pressing against her. Slowly she stood, expecting a jolt of pain or twinge of tender muscles, but there was nothing. Once she was on her feet she looked around again, she ran her hand along the wall and was surprised to feel tiny bumps underneath her fingertips. She looked closer and saw the wall was covered in names, laid out in tiny, neat little rows. The names were carved into the rock, but who ever had done it must have used a tool, the names were clear and crisp. The walls were about eight foot high and as far as she could tell every inch of the walls were covered, she couldn’t make out the ceiling, but she suspected it was full too. After a moment Kelly realised that there were no lights in the tunnel, yet she could see pretty well, the tunnel faded to shadows in the distance but she could easily see twenty feet in either direction. Somewhere in the darkness she heard a noise, like something shuffling along the ground, “Hello?” the shuffling continued for a second before stopping. “Is there anyone else here?” There was no response.
Kelly took a deep breath, she needed to stay calm, panicking would be the worst thing she could do right now. She exhaled slowly, she had gotten here somehow, but if she had gotten in there had to be a way out. Her feet were clean so maybe she had been carried, she had checked her scalp for any cuts or tender areas but there was nothing, so maybe she had been drugged. She looked both ways down the tunnel and after a seconds indecision went left. She walked slowly, hand running along the wall as she went.
After ten minutes she stopped, confused. The tunnel wasn’t getting any brighter but it seemed like the light was moving with her, when she looked back the way she came she could see darkness in the distance and same with ahead, but the light never dimmed or shifted. She looked at the ground and saw she had no shadow, it was as though the light was coming from everywhere. She cupped her hands against the wall and leaned in, expecting to see a dull glow, but there was just blackness. Behind her something shuffled again. Kelly jumped slightly and started walking, she hated bugs and creepy crawlies and she knew there had to be some of them in here with her. What ever that shuffling thing was she didn’t want to be anywhere near it.
The dry scratchiness of her throat was maddening, her tongue felt thick and heavy in her mouth, how long had she been walking down here? Hours? Days? She hadn’t slept, but that wasn’t much help, she hadn’t felt tired yet, though her legs and feet were starting to ache. The warmth of the floor had been welcomed at first, but now it was starting to unnerve her. The ground felt oddly soft, like she was walking on a very thin layer of carpet, the image of a long, undulating throat came to her mind and she pushed it away. That was ridiculous. What ever this place was it was man made at the very least. She paused, what if it was just a giant circle? Would she even notice? She leaned against the wall, feeling the warmth of it on her back, that strange shuffling sound returned, though it sounded closer than before, beneath it there was something else, it sounded almost like someone gently breathing. She felt a ripple of goose bumps over her flesh, feeling a spike of fear Kelly started walking again, jogging for a few feet every now and then.
Kelly sat against the wall, her legs were so tired and her feet burned, it felt like she had been down here for weeks, months. Part of her feared that maybe this was her life, this is all that there ever had been or ever would and that her memories were just the remnants of a vivid dream she had had. She tried to push the thought away, tell herself that it was crazy, but it kept coming back. The shuffling was getting closer though she had yet to see what was causing it. She wanted to continue on but she didn’t have the energy. Her throat burned and her stomach grumbled sullenly. She had never been this hungry or thirsty before, the hunger held an edge of nausea to it, the thirst was starting to become maddening, she ran her tongue over her dry, cracked lips and winced at the pain. From the darkness came a soft whisper, too soft to make out. “Hello? I know you’re there.” Her voice was weak and scared, even to her own ears. The whispering came again, “Please, whoever you are, just let me out of here, tell me how to get out.”
The whisper came, just barely audible, “there is no way out.” Then silence fell.
The sound of her heart thudding filled her ears, panic filled her with a new energy and Kelly stood, she started stumbling down the hall, her hand dragging along the wall as she leaned on it for strength.
Kelly stopped, her hand running over a small, tiny smooth patch on the stone, she paused and looked at it, there was a small gap between the names. Did that mean anything? Was it a signal? A way to tell direction down here? Maybe it was how you got in and out, after all there had to be an entrance and there had been no twists or turns in the tunnel so far. She ran her fingers along the smooth spot, looking for a catch or something that would tell her she was right. She felt a breath of air on the back of her neck, Kelly froze, she let out a faint whimper, the whisper returned, a stench like rotting meat filled the air, “I see you’ve found your spot. They always do down here.” Kelly’s eyes scanned over the names, there were thousands of them, maybe even millions, long bony fingers slid across the back of her neck and Kelly started to scream.