Another year, another round of contests in the books.
Okay, I say that, but the thing I’m going to share is from a contest that’s underway. The following has been submitted and we’ll see how well it does.
If I haven’t shared this before or if you’re new, I like to take part in the NYC Midnight fiction contests from time to time. This time around was their Flash Fiction bracket, and they go like this:
You have 48 hours to write a story of a thousand words or fewer. You’re given a genre, a location, and an object which all have to be represented. So, say for example, your given genre is ‘Fantasy,’ placed at ‘a restaurant,’ and featuring ‘a length of pipe,’ you can see how you’d have to piece together those elements into a little diddy.
This time around, I was given ‘Horror,’ ‘a clifftop,’ and ‘a crowbar.’ I forgot that the weekend over which the contest was held, I actually had a number of obligations I’d committed to, so instead of forty-eight, I crammed this out in two.
The synopsis: “A group of five friends is on route to a weekend getaway when a highway accident diverts them, and the night quickly descends into terror as they flee from a monstrous hunter.”
Still though, I think it came together alright.
I’m sitting in the back seat of Travis’s Ford just watching the streaks of nighttime rain worm their way across the cold glass. We’re on our way to my dad’s cabin, and everything is just as normal as it always is. Travis is talking about this new job he’s about to land, and Chris is pretending to listen. Sarah won’t look up from her Switch, and Patrick sits between us pretending not to sneak glances at my legs. I fog up the window with a sigh and go back to counting the lines in the road when Chris suddenly shouts.
I don’t have time to see what it was or even to think. Travis wrenches on the steering wheel, there’s the screech of metal against the guard rail, and then just gravity. My stomach lurches into my throat, and I feel myself screaming. The cab is chaotic with light, dark, noise, and force all battling for rank. I think we swept right over the clifftop, tumbled end over end, and finally crashed through some trees.
My ears are ringing. In turns, we all fall out of the truck. I’m dizzy. Sarah pukes. It’s minutes before anyone says anything. There’s a howl in the distance behind us.
“Everyone alright?” Chris asks finally.
“I don’t know,” is all I can whimper out.
“Did you guys hear that?” asks Patrick, looking back up the short cliff we’d careened off.
Travis huffs. “It’s just coyotes, dumbass.” Then to Chris, he says, “What the fuck was that for, man? You ran us off the road!” He shoves him.
“I don’t think coyotes sound like that…”
Chris growls back at Travis. “There was a guy standing in the middle of the road!” he shouts. “You almost plowed right into him!”
Patrick doesn’t have time to do more than yelp when some kind of huge animal tackles him to the ground. It’s dark and raining. There’s a roar and a grisly crunch as Patrick’s screaming stops.
So we scatter. I bolt off into the woods crying like a maniac, and Chris manages to follow. I don’t know where the others go, I just run. I dart through trees, cut through bushes, jump over rocks, anything to obey this primal need to flee. I hear Chris breathing and struggling behind me, but there’s another noise too.
It doesn’t sound anything like a coyote.
We keep running, leaping over roots and dips in the ground, and I hear water ahead. I charge ahead with the last of what my legs will give me and dive right into the forest stream. We make it to the other side together and glance back. On the other side of the stream is this…thing. It’s partially hidden in the shadows of the trees, but it looks like a person with yellow eyes.
And the eyes are seven feet from the ground.
The thing looks from us to the stream, then steps back and growls. It disappears from view, but we can hear it running away along the stream, trying to find a way around.
“What the hell was that thing?” Chris asks breathlessly. “Did you see what way the others went?”
Another howl on our side of the stream keeps me from answering, and we start running again. About a minute later, we find the edge of a fenced property. We make our way through a hole in the links and can see that it’s some kind of scrapyard or cemetery for old cars. Chris finds a rusted crowbar on the hood of an old Chevvy, and uses it to get us into a ramshackle storage shed.
“I don’t know,” I say at last. I try in vain to wipe my wet hands off on my pant legs, but I wind up just nervously wringing them together and I can’t get them to stop shaking.
Chris gives me a confused look. “What?” he says.
“The thing that…” I swallow a lump in my throat. “The thing that killed Patrick. I have no idea what that is.” I start crying again. “I just hope Travis is okay,” I sob.
He moves to put his hand on my shoulder, but we both hear something.
“Chris? Chris, Rebecca!” a voice from outside shouts. “Where are you guys?”
“Travis?” Chris calls. He sets the crowbar down and jogs out to find him. I move to follow, but my heart begins racing anew, and some deep survival instinct anchors me to the spot. Something leaps out from behind a crushed car and shoves its arm through Chris’s chest.
It’s tall with taut skin, pink and white like it’s been burned, sickly shining with the rain. Its limbs are unnaturally long and has fangs like a big cats. It rips into the dead meat of Chris’s neck, but stops when it sees me. It howls this clicking, wailing shriek and starts stalking right toward me. With eyes fixed on mine, its mouth opens impossibly wide and its throat starts to quiver and vibrate. “Chris? Chris, Rebbeca!” comes the voice, perfectly like Travis. “Where are you guys?”
It lunges at me, and I react just in time to catch its head in the door. A clawed hand breaks the glass, rips into my shoulder, and I hear something break that adrenaline tells me to ignore. The wood quickly begins to creak and splinter, but I grab the crowbar Chris left behind and bash its skull over and over again until it stops moving.
I curl up against the back wall and just hug my knees with my good arm. I think about Patrick, about Chris, about Travis, and just pray to God and against hope that Sarah got away. Then I hear something outside, just audible over the drumming of rain.
“Chris?” calls one from my right.
“Rebbeca!” calls the same voice from my left.
“Where are you guys?”
“Chris? Rebecca! Where are you guys?”
They’re getting closer.