Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge - The Merciful Chasm

1500 words

Flash Fiction Challenge

"The Merciful Chasm" began from what you see above but I was too tight to the deadline and decided to give it a miss in order to avoid the pressure of writing to a deadline.

I've never written to a deadline before.

I had a go, however, (better late than never, right?!) and this is what an hour left me with... What do you think?

The Merciful Chasm

She grew up. She had to have. She was bigger, larger now than she was before, her legs longer, her hips wider.

But when did it happen, she often wondered, for she was certain it hadn't happened while she was looking, while she was awake.

She didn’t sleep much so that confused her even more.

She woke each morning, in her strange bed, in her strange room and checked her body. She counted each finger and each toe, flexing them each in turn. The same pattern every morning, even before she opened her eyes.

She felt blessed she had all of her digits and that they all worked and though the feeling was overwhelming, she had no idea of the source of the emotion.

After her ritual counting, she rose, took a sip of cool water from the pitcher beside her strange bed, undressed and walked across the sparsely furnished room to the large mirror on the opposite wall.

Here she watched her reflection for a moment, struggling to remember how she’d come to be here, struggled to remember what her story was.

She whispered to herself “Your name is Kay. You are 37 years old.”

She then stretched, turned and manipulated her body into every shape she could imagine. It had been a few weeks since she’d discovered any new ones so, lately, this had become as ritual as her counting.

Once she was satisfied that everything moved the way it was supposed to and felt as it should, she would examine the scar that traversed her midsection. The scar started beside her right breast, under her arm and ended over the small crest of her left hipbone. It was almost exactly three times the length of her hand, from the base of her palm to the tip of her middle finger. She had no official measuring device available in the room but felt that this was sufficient for her mental checklist.

The scar, now a delicate pink and significantly less puffy than she’d ever remembered it being, tingled when she stroked down its length. She felt an odd aching whenever she did this but couldn’t pinpoint a specific location on her body that suffered. She would closer her eyes and stroke the scar, her mind sensing the ache more than her body.

Sometimes stroking the scar would make her cry.

Her days were filled with routine and ritual. Wake. Count. Undress. Stretch. Stroke. Shower. Dress. Wait. Eat. Chat…

Breakfast was never anything exciting. It arrived with no conversation (but oh, how she’d tried to engage!) and the delivery person would take away her dirty clothes after setting the tray of food onto the table in the centre of the room.

Today she had the choice of two boiled eggs with some brown toast or some unnamed sweet oats the temperature of a tepid bath. She didn’t enjoy this part of her routine but had come to understand that only once she’d finished eating (“And politely, thank you!”) would she be allowed her first companionship of the day.

She finished the eggs and toast, having replaced the lid on the oats as quickly as she’d lifted it to check its contents, and wiped the corners of her mouth with the rough paper napkin that arrived with the tray. She remained seated at her small table, her hands folded in her lap.

On schedule (45 seconds after she’d placed her hands in her lap) the door to the room opened again and the same person entered, took the tray from the table and left with it but left the door open behind them.

Her hands fidgeted slightly, a little restless in her lap, as she waited, her eyes fixed on the open doorway. She reminded herself not to move, to remain as still as possible lest the door be closed once more with her visitor on the outside of the room rather than within.

Mercifully, she waited less and less for her guest each day though there were still some occasions when the door would be closed immediately after her tray was taken or she’d have to wait a long time, only for the door to be closed anyway.

She hated those days but wasn’t sure why.

Today, however, the wait wasn’t long and the door was closed only after her guest had entered the room. They looked at each other and a small, timid smile played at both of their mouths, the child approximately the age Kay last remembered being.

She stood slowly and the child walked to her side where they held hands. Elle looked down at the child, “Good morning, Elle.”

Elle looked up and whispered back, the child always whispered, “Good morning, Kay. Shall we go outside?”

The child tried to smile but Kay knew it was an act. She could see something wasn’t quite right behind Elle’s deep brown eyes but she could never put her finger on it.

The two made their way outside onto the little lawn outside Kay’s room. Also sparsely furnished and surrounded on all sides by impossibly-high fences lined with shrubs, they were exiled from the outside world. It seemed to be the way Elle preferred it, though Kay wondered why she missed the “real” outside when she had no idea what it could be. She had no memory of what could be “out there” but felt certain she had known once.

Sometimes, like today, her legs ached when she thought about “out there”, almost as if they remembered and desired nothing more than to run, as fast as they could in whatever direction, it didn’t matter.
Elle seemed to be able to sense those days and always behaved differently on those days. This behaviour was the only unpredictable part of Kay’s days.

“Will you brush my hair, please, Kay?”

Kay looked down at Elle and forced herself to focus on the child. She stared into her brown eyes and smiled softly, replying “Of course, Elle. Will you please go get my brush?”

Kay watched as Elle walked back inside, knowing that although she hadn’t told Elle where to find the brush, the child would know.

She shivered at the thought and looked to the sky. She closed her eyes and allowed the sun to warm her and her mind to wander… though it never seemed to wander far.

Elle came back and took Kay’s hand, leading her to the lounge chairs to the left of the space. Once they were seated and Kay began brushing, Elle began asking questions.

Kay was used to these questions. Elle didn’t ask them often, in any discernible pattern or even worded the same way each time, but the questions themselves were always the same.

Once more Kay closed her eyes, using both hands to brush Elle’s hair, as she tried to search her mind for the answers.

First was the question of her name. “My name is Kay.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because Doctor told me so,” Kay always replied.

“How old are you?”

“I am 37 years old.”

“How did you get the scar on your stomach?”

“I don’t remember,” Not entirely the truth, Kay saw flashes behind her closed eyes and her face changed as though she was hurting. She saw the flash of a large blade in her periphery and her brain screamed at an imagined pain in her stomach.

She heard a voice inside her head telling her to be still, that it would be over soon, that she had to be awake during the procedure. The voice seemed familiar but Kay didn’t know why. She squeezed her eyes shut tighter and tried to focus on the images and sounds.

There was an audible gasp in the room of Kay’s mind as a baby suddenly appeared, slimy and new.
Aren’t new babies supposed to cry?” Kay thought to herself.

“Are you sure you can’t remember, Kay? Not even a tiny little bit?” Elle whispered.

Kay squeezed her eyes tighter still and forced herself to continue brushing the child’s hair as she searched her mind. “Move quickly! The child needs to be tested at once!” That oddly familiar voice again and Kay shivered so violently she dropped the hairbrush, her skin erupting in chill bumps.

Elle stood, holding the dropped brush in her hand. She whispered “OK, I think we’re done for today.”

They held hands as Kay stood and they walked together through the room and to the door. Elle turned in the doorway and looked up at Kay’s face, an unfamiliar look on her face and she tugged Kay’s hand, motioning her downward.

Kay squatted before the child, again confused by her own reaction to the deep brown eyes before her.

Elle leaned in, placing her hands on Kay’s shoulders. Not breaking eye contact with Kay, she whispered into her ear, “If I were you, I wouldn’t remember. Pray you don’t.”

Elle stepped back, gave a little wave and skipped off down the hallway, humming to herself.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, just enough flashback to grab the interest, and enough mystery to make me want to hear more :)