"The less said about the pterodactyl the better. It was a spectacle, that beast! a mixture of buzzard and alligator, a sarcasm, an affront to all animated nature, a butt for the ribald jests of an unfeeling world." --from "Flies and Russians" by Mark Twain
Friday, June 3, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday: It Starts With a Bang!
Okay, so I'm back with a Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig.
This week's challenge was to start with a bang, right in the middle of the action. Here it goes:
Jolie bangs the front door closed, wincing a little at the
loud noise in the otherwise silent house.
“Denny?” she calls out. “Are you home?”
Her heart pounds as she waits, prays, for a reply.The bad feeling she’s had in her stomach
deepens. The car is in the driveway, so he has to be here. He was supposed to
pick her from practice, but he never showed up. She called and texted him
repeatedly, growing more worried with each unanswered call.
Jolie rushes pass the dirty dishes stacked in the kitchen
sink and takes the back stairs two at a time, dodging the shoes and books that
litter them. His door closed, but she can light in the seam between the door
and the floor. He’s sleeping, she tells herself. He fell asleep and just hasn’t
woken up from the nap, that’s why he didn’t answer the calls or come to get
her. Her heart pounds in her throat as she knocks loudly on the door.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Denny,” she says loudly, trying to keep the tremor out of
her voice. “Are you in there?”
She bangs three more times, hysteria rising in her. She
grasps the knob and opens the door, praying, praying, praying…
At first she doesn’t see anyone. Denny’s unmade bed is empty
and the computer on his desk is off. Clothes and movies and books are strewn
all over the room, as though a tornado blew through. Jolie picks her way
through the mess around the bed and there he is, on the floor. Her lungs seem
to deflate as all the air in her leaves.The room tilts and she is lightheaded.
The blood pools under his arm, dark red, and dares her to
move, to scream, to do something, anything.
But she is frozen, unable to breathe or look away.Blood stains his shirt and he is so pale that
she is sure he must already be dead. Her
mind races with disjointed thoughts, but there are two she is able to grasp
This first is that she needs to help him. The second is that
this is her fault.
Jolie pulls out her phone and dials 911.
“I need an ambulance, my brother cut his wrists and he’s
lost a lot of blood,” she says when the dispatcher answers.
Jolie gives the woman her address and answers the questions
she asks. Is he breathing? She doesn’t think so. Does he have a pulse? A weak
one. Was she home alone? Yes.Where was
her brother in the house? Upstairs, second room on the left.The woman tells her that EMS is on the way,
but Jolie isn’t listening anymore. She’s staring at Denny, watching the life
literally drain out of him, and she feels so helpless.
Then she realizes she can
do something. If she can slow the bleeding, then maybe there is a glimmer of
hope that he won’t die. She tosses the phone on the bed, the dispatcher still
talking, and she grabs the top sheet off his bed. She kneels next to him, flips
his arms over as gently as she can, and presses the sheet against the long
gashes that run nearly wrist to elbow. She is kneeling in the blood and the cuts
are too long for her use only her hands. She lies across him and presses her
forearms against his.
The blood is strikingly dark against the pale pallor of his
skin. She looks at his face, willing him to hold onto the thread of life. She
wonders how she and her siblings missed this in him. When their mother died
five years ago, Denny took it the hardest.But even then they never worried about him being suicidal.
Everything changed, though, nearly a year earlier. Jolie had
begged him to take her to a party. Despite being three years older, she and
Denny were very close. She had friends going to the party and after pestering
him relentlessly he agreed to take her along. She and one of her friends had a
beer or two and were flirting with some boys. They followed the boys to a room
and she was feeling woozy, but she clearly remembers telling the boy no repeatedly.
It didn’t matter, he and his friends had their way with her and her friend,
then left them there to gather their clothes and their broken spirits.
She didn’t want to tell anyone. But Denny knew with one look
at her that something was very wrong. She told him, sobbing through the story,
and he took her to the hospital. They would have pressed charges, but Jolie
didn’t know who the boy was and couldn’t remember enough details about him to
pick him out of a line up.
Ever since then, Denny hadn’t been able to look at her.Jolie thought at first it was because he
thought of her differently, that she had disappointed him in some way. She told
her sister this and her sister told her that he blamed himself for what
happened to her. That he felt he had failed her and he couldn’t bear the
thought that he had let something so horrible happened to her.
It was a ridiculous notion and Jolie tried to tell him so.
But he could barely make it through the smallest of conversations with her. So
she didn’t push the matter and months had passed. She’d wanted to tell him that
it wasn’t his fault. That she loved him and that he couldn’t keep blaming
himself. But she didn’t know how to get him to listen.
Now, as she presses her arms against his, willing him to
live, she knows she should have made him listen. She should have done something
to get through to him. There is banging on the front door, announcing the
arrival of the EMTs, and Jolie, her heart banging against her ribs cage and
covered in her brother’s blood, prays, prays, prays…