Wednesday 16 February 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 239

This week's picture prompt is from a twitter writer friend. JLGentry, although at the current time he is taking a break from the platform. This is of his decking at his home in Connecticut, and he shared it for a themed picture-sharing day on twitter called #SundayPixLiminal. (click here for the meaning of Liminal)

Okay, so this went dark, and I liked it. It also went WAY long - 1,200+ words after editing - but I like it as it is, so I am breaking my old rules on this one. This might even get developed one day I like it so much! 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

The image shows reddish brown wooden planks as part of a deck, with some dry autumn leaves scattered on it. Taken by JLGentry


The rustling was the first thing I registered, then the wind on my face. Something batted across my cheek and I cracked an eye open a fraction. The light was searing, seeming to run right into the centre of my brain, like a lightning strike, awakening me to the throbbing that was my head.

I moved my arm, resting my palm on the surface. It was wood, but it didn’t smell like wood. It smelt like dried blood, or was that from my nose?

I could see a brownish red out of the slit of my eye. I dared to open it a touch more, I could see a pattern. It was the grain of the red-stained wood decking.

The jumble of memories didn’t want to form into anything cohesive, but there had definitely been some kind of party: a lot of people, in a house.

I felt something on my face and caught it with my hand. It crumbled against my fingers: an autumn leaf. It was then that I started to register the temperature. It was cold. I wasn’t conscious enough to shiver.

I attempted to move onto my side. It took too tries, but I managed it. I didn’t dare lift my head up. But I opened my other eye and saw the railings that ran round the wooden veranda and an expanse of land beyond. It was mostly lawn, with a few scattered trees. I remembered the house: people laughing, glasses clinking, and music.

I moved my tongue round my mouth. Something was sore. I brought my palm up to my cheek. My jaw was swollen and my cheekbone hurt. I’d been hit. But by who?

I tried to recall, but my mind seemed foggy. I could only get a few snatches, nothing consistent: the odd face, some kind of fumbling body on top of me. It’s then I realised it wasn’t just my face that was sore. I glanced down at myself. I had clothes on, but they were dishevelled, and my skirt was the wrong way round. I ran a hand along my hip and leg. My underpants were still on – or had been put back on. I couldn’t be sure. I had to get up to figure out where I was and what had happened.

I knew trying to get upright would be difficult. For a second all thoughts stopped as bile rose into my mouth and I lurched onto my feet and hung over the railing, ready to let it all go. But nothing came. I just coughed a little, my head banging. But as I was up on my feet, so I took advantage of the new perspective.

The house was quiet and shuttered. I staggered to the French windows that led out onto the decking, but they were locked, blinds drawn. I frowned and made my way down the steps off the veranda, walking round the property. Everything was closed up, all blinds drawn and some external shutters. It was a large place and when I arrived at the front, the driveway was empty and the front door locked.

Had I been dumped here? Was this where the party had been? My mind still wouldn’t give up any answers, but either way I was stranded.

I walked to the road. It was rural, I could only see woods and forest. The road disappeared up over a hill in either direction. Left or right? I didn’t know. Maybe I would be better off staying, try and find a way into the house. Maybe there was a phone and I could call someone.

I tried the front door again, but it was just as locked as it had been a few seconds ago. I took my time circling the house again. One at the back didn’t look straight. I checked and realised it was one of those window that could tilt as well as open. It was tilted back a crack. I pushed it at the top and it opened some more. It was one of a pair. I could just get my hand in to its neighbour. I turned the handle so it swung inward. I pulled myself up and inside. It was a bedroom and it was empty of personal belongings. Was this an empty house?

I went out into the corridor and walked into what I thought must be the living room. Everything was dark due to all the blinds being drawn. There was a strange smell, a familiar smell. I had smelt it outside on the decking when I’d come too: dried blood.

I followed the wall over to one of the windows and pull one of the blinds at the bottom. It flipped up, rolling into itself.

And then I turned and saw the carnage; bodies everywhere; naked male bodies, bloody and beaten.

I froze and listened; nothing. I moved over to one of them on the sofa. Their eyes were shut; they could be sleeping. I put my finger to their neck. The flesh was cold. I couldn’t find a pulse.

I looked more closely at their face. Did I know them? I couldn’t recall having seen them before, and when I walked round the others, taking my time, I didn’t recognise them either – all eight of them.

This time I really did need to throw up. I rushed out of the room, hand over my mouth and tried several doors before finding the bathroom. I managed to get the toilet seat up in time to expel whatever it was I had consumed the night before.

I went to the sink to wash my face. There was a mirror above it. And when I saw my face, I knew.

It had been me; the fight had been over me. I had only known one of them – the one I had come with – but they weren’t among the bodies. They were gone. They must have been the one that had shuttered and locked up everything. But why had they left me here? Did they think I was dead too?

I also knew where I was. I had to get out of here too, before the owners came back. They could arrive at any time.

I went back into the living room and pulled the blind back down, leaving it the way it had been found. I climbed back out the window and closed it behind me. I ran out to the road and turned right, up the hill as quickly as I could, using the trees that came up to the edge of the road as camouflage. There would be a strip of shops soon. I would use a pay phone there. He’d come and fetch me. He had to if he wanted me to keep my mouth shut.


  1. By Mark A Morris on FB:

    “Come on,” she said, wild-eyed and ferocious. “I gave you exactly what you wanted. Just try to make use of it, will you?”
    I closed my eyes and tried to feel my way forward, wishing my legs would obey me. I remembered the classic adage, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ and wished I’d made no wishes at all. She’d left my old body where I could see it, broken open and with its innards hanging out, showing me the place I’d come from. It was also a reminder that there was no way back; I’d made a choice forever, ill-advised though it was. But how was I to know she was going to be able to make good on her offer? I should have been more careful with what I said.
    “It’s so difficult,” I said. “I don’t know to connect with it. You can’t expect me to work it out just like that.”
    A flywheel – my flywheel – began to spin, its clockwork creating a growling noise as it built up momentum. I felt its gears grinding as they tried to mesh, their metal teeth skipping as they sought out that sweet spot where they could engage without jamming.
    I tried again. This time, I opened my eyes, pushing the shutters apart enough so I could see ahead. My right hand was before me, clenched into a fist that I would never be able to open. My left one was tucked behind, out of sight: I knew already it would reappear if I got the trick of walking. They would alternate – left, right, left – perfectly out of phase with my legs, my body staggering forward like a drunkard’s.
    All I needed was to find a way of aligning myself with the mechanism. How difficult could it be? This was supposed to be child’s play, something a growing mind from five to ninety-five could do.
    I lurched forward, my body pivoting on its front foot. The lever sticking from my back shifted its position, forcing the escapement hidden in my chest into a new relationship with the gearbox below.
    The wooden boards in front of me began to move. My right foot appeared, monolithic and metallic, striking out at the wood and lifting me so that I hopped as it passed beneath me. My left hand provided a counterweight, maintaining my balance, the two of them together driving me forward.
    I could do this. I was getting it. I only had to maintain the rhythm, and I would be able to run, striding forward with my eyes firing sparks as I ate up the distance.
    And then I fell.
    I don’t know what happened. I could only look ahead, my eyes fixed on the forward horizon, my vision tunnelled into a small cone no better than thirty degrees in diameter. One minute I was sprinting, my mainspring filled with power - the next, I was lying on my back, impotent, my gears hissing like a snake as I writhed in place, seeing nothing but the ceiling. I wished I could have my original body back as it had been before, its legs useless and lacking in power, my hands, arms and shoulders all I could use. A wheelchair was a prison - or so I’d thought - but at least I’d been more of a man then, not an overgrown child’s toy, dependent on someone using a key in my back to move me along. If this was some sort of a joke at my expense, it was a cruel one. I needed to be myself again, limited but still me.
    If only I had another wish, I could put this all right.