Short Story: An Impossible Reunion

Written for Cat’s latest Writer’s Plot challenge.

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An Impossible Reunion

 

I’ll just close my eyes and whisper, “It’s okay, it’s time for me to go now.”

My bare toes gripped the edge of the chair. They were the only thing keeping me from seeing her again. I tugged at the rope around my neck. It felt tight, coarse. It cut into me. It made it difficult to breathe. I saw visions of people, of her. My toes uncurled and I took the step.

She smiled at me as I chased after her along the beach, kicking up sand with every stride. I caught up to her and wrestled her to the ground. I waited half a moment, gazing into her eyes; pools of deep sea green, before diving in and passionately kissing her. A sharp pain shot through my tongue and I pulled away. Her supple skin gone. Underneath, the bleached bone of a screaming skull. The skull held half my tongue between its teeth. I tried to yell but I couldn’t make a sound.

Back to the room I went. The walls caved inwards. Books flew at me from all directions. I heard laughing followed by shouting, then hands on me. The rope broke free and I toppled to the floor. For a second I swore it was her standing over me, but as my blurry vision subsided I recognised the face; my daughter Penelope. Next to her brandishing a pocket knife and a cut piece of rope stood her husband Harvey, along with that ridiculous head of curly hair.

“Dad, are you okay?” Penelope gripped my shoulders.

I shook her off and struggled to my feet. I propped myself up by the reading chair. “I saw her.”

“Dad, this is absurd. You won’t see her again if you do this.”

“What choice do I have?”

“Life, Dad. You have the choice of life.”

I looked at the younger version of her in a blue polka dot dress and hair in a bun. She had tears in her eyes ready to fall. The resemblance was uncanny.

“Girl, I’ve read every book in this place,” I said, waving at the shelves of books lining every wall. “I’ve lived experiences, vast and incredible. She was the one thing I couldn’t find in a book. There’s nothing left for me now.”

Harvey looked busy punching numbers into his cell phone.

“Excuse me chap. Who are you calling?” I asked.

“The hospital,” he replied, putting the phone to his ear.

“I’m fine.”

“You were about to kill yourself,” said Penelope.

“And I would have to, if you hadn’t busted in here, and taken away whatever dignity I had left.”

“This isn’t dignified Dad. There is no honour in this.”

I navigated around the reading chair and found my scrawled letter under a flickering candle. I blew out the candle and tugged out the letter. Penelope reached out to take it, but I crumpled it into a ball and threw it across the room. It didn’t go far. Harvey was still on the phone, giving over the address.

“Don’t let them take me,” I whispered into her ear. “I don’t want to go.”

Penelope snapped back. “What else would you have us do Dad, huh? Leave you alone so you can try again?”

“I don’t want to go to the hospital. Take me with you.”

Penelope’s face fell. This wasn’t easy for her. I felt terrible for hurting her in this way, but this was something I had to do.

“You will stay with me and Harvey then, for a little while, until you feel better?”

I looked at Harvey and his stupid curly hair. “Yes, even him.”

Penelope took Harvey to the side and explained the situation. He didn’t look too happy at the proposed arrangement.

“We have to go now,” said Penelope, tugging at my arm. “The ambulance is on its way.”

I followed Penelope out of the library and into the wide hallway adorned by beach landscapes dotted with her initials. How she loved that bloody beach.

“I’ll run to the bathroom and get your medicine. We have clean sheets on the spare bed. I can come back for your clothes later tonight,” said Penelope.

She disappeared upstairs before I could object.

Harvey stood in the doorway with a forced smile. “Right, follow me to the car,” he said.

Reluctantly I trudged after him and climbed into the backseat of their Daihatsu Feroza. Harvey took the driver’s seat and Penelope soon arrived clutching a medicine bag. We sped off from the driveway. I watched as our house disappeared from view and I could begin to hear a distant wailing of sirens.

“Penelope?” I asked.

“Yes Dad?”

“Could we stop by the beach first? Just for a while? There’s something I would like to see.”

In the rear view mirror I saw Penelope nod and smile. We changed course for the beach where once again I would be with her. I would sense her touch in the breeze, feel her warmth in the sun, and see her eyes in the ocean.

Our love reunited.

Short Story: Meta Much?

This one took second place in one of our regular Writer’s Plot challenges. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (and not so innocent).

Typing

Meta Much? 

My Glock hit the surface of the table in front of me. My writer’s group, seated in a square of tables, stared in disbelief.

“Jess, you brought a gun to the library?” Betty asked.

“Fuck yes, why the hell not?” I retorted.

“Safety violations. You’ve said it yourself before,” said Francis, opening her iPad just to check.

“Look, it’s loaded,” I said. I picked up the gun, pointed the barrel at Darrel and fired. His head slumped to the table.

The group looked at me in horror. I shrugged my shoulders. “What? He never talked anyway.”

Screams filled the library. Some fled the table, others froze unable to move. Henry stood up and approached me, trying to talk me down. I shot him dead too and continued firing until every last member of our writer’s group was lying in a pool of their own blood. Lucky I brought spare bullets. From out of nowhere I heard clucking. A chicken appeared from behind a bookshelf and waded through the writers blood.

“No, no, no!”

I threw my wireless keyboard at the floor.Thespacebarfelloffagain.Ireattached it.

The cursor on my monitor blinked angrily at the end of my last sentence.

“God damn Gerry expects us to work that into our story? Fucking chickens?”

I downed another bottle of Chilean Pinot Noir from my giant wine glass. Just another writing assignment. You can do this Jess. You’re a bloody writer. I continued my story from where I left off, even keeping in that chicken bit. I could always delete it later.

I shouldered my bag and marched towards the library exit. Unfortunately some men in blue were there to greet me. As messed up as I was, I was no cop killer, and retreated to the non fiction section. I hid behind the biographies with my back against the books and my Glock at the ready. How would I get myself out of this mess? I had made sure there would be no more writing assignments–that was for sure–but the killings had escalated the situation, rather than fixing it.

Okay, so I’ve written myself into a corner. I reached for my glass. Empty. Shit.

The door creaked open. I turned to see Paws with his tail wagging. He came up to me and I scratched behind his ears. Oh you always know how to fix a girl’s mood don’t you Paws? I looked closer at his nose, it was covered in some kind of brown-green sludge. “Paws, have you been in the dumpster again?” I smacked his bottom and he curled up in the corner.

This story was proving harder than any story I had written before. I had this strange fogginess, like my head was full of space and missing memories. It was as if I was dreaming.

Too much wine again? But no, this was something else entirely. I felt as though I didn’t belong. I was an imposter. I shook the feeling off and returned to my story.

I heard cars pull up outside the library. I couldn’t see them but by the way the doors slammed I knew it was the Armed Offenders Squad. Oh goodie, time to see what my hubby thinks of this situation.

I stepped out from behind the shelf to face an empty library. The chicken had waddled out of the library and was poking around outside, scratching at one of the three trees in the neighbouring garden. I spotted the black cars. It was the Armed Offenders alright, and one of them was looking right at me; James.

I don’t even know what I’m writing anymore. Is this a fantasy? Some sick dream I want to get out on paper? I should probably just delete this and go with something safer. I closed the document and  pressed the delete key. I clicked yes to send it straight to the recycle bin, but the computer wouldn’t let me. The yes option was greyed out. Oh, maybe it’s still open somewhere? I closed all my windows and tried again. Yes was still greyed out. What the hell? I kicked the desk and Paws scampered out of the room. Fine, do what you want computer. I opened a new document. I made sure the formatting was just right and attempted to write.

In a lush green field I strolled with my sidekick chicken resting on my shoulder. The sky was blue and dotted with fluffy clouds. “Looks like we have good weather ahead,” I said.

“Still we had better get to the cabin before dark,” clucked Dresande.

“I know that you silly old chicken,” I said. I smiled and ruffled his feathers.

He clucked, irritated.

We passed by three bare trees, with branches like contorted outstretched hands,  and entered the foreboding forest. The forest was black. Pitch black. “Are you still there Dresande?”

I didn’t hear a response. I felt my shoulder, he was gone. Something in front of me flashed white and I was blinded. I covered my eyes. I heard shouts. I took away my arm and found myself looking at a bookshelf. I felt something heavy in my hands. It was a Glock.

What… the… actual… fuck. I stood up and backed away from my computer. It wasn’t me. I didn’t write that. Something was hijacking my story. Was it my computer, some bizarre joke hack? But I knew it wasn’t. I felt my hands write it, but I couldn’t control them. My own hands.

I held them out in front of me, palms up, half expecting them to jump up at me and tear apart my face. Okay, that’s it. I need a break. I walked towards the door, when it swung shut right in front of me. I tried the handle. It was stuck. “Okay, prank’s over guys!” I shouted. “Charlie, open this door right now!”

I jiggled the handle again. Nothing. I stamped around the room trying to make myself heard downstairs, until something caught my eye. After the last sentence was an extra line. One I didn’t remember writing; Finish the story.

I sat down in my computer chair and sighed. “Fine, if you’ll just let me get on with my life, I’ll finish this shitty story.” I poised my fingers above the keyboard and with no thought or effort, they began to type.

I walked towards the window where James stood on the other side dressed in a padded suit of black and holding onto a Bushmaster M4. His mouth was hidden by material. James’ eyes went wide as he took in the scene before him; the bodies that lay around the tables. He looked back at me.  He could not believe what I had done and I couldn’t either. So he did what he knew best, what he was trained to do. He aimed his rifle at my chest. I aimed my Glock between his eyes, the small gap between his helmet and his armour.

“No, I won’t. I don’t want to write this,” I wiped a tear from my eye. “You can’t make me write this!”

The keyboard began typing on its own; Finish it.

“Finish it yourself you supernatural asshole.”

I looked in disbelief as the keyboard continued to press in keys without the need of fingers; I’m not supernatural. I’m a writer, just like yourself. My story requires that you finish your story.

I swiped the air over the keyboard. Nothing. No invisible hands. Nothing physical anyway.

Jess, you’re not real. Well, not this version anyway. You’re a character. I created you from what limited knowledge I have on you.

“I’m real. I have to be real,” I said, desperately trying to cling on to reality. If that’s what you could still call this. I grabbed the keyboard and typed the two most powerful words known to writers everywhere.

The End.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Really. It’s a coincidence. What, you don’t believe me?

Short Story: Big Bad Wolf

Written as part of a Writer’s Plot genre assignment. Fairy Tale / Romance.

big-bad-wolf

Big Bad Wolf

Knock. Knock. Knock. “Where is she?” A voice growled.

Pippa stood behind the door, knuckles white and clenched. The chain lock rattled with every thump.

“I don’t know where she is,” said Pippa sternly. “You go away now.”

The thumping stopped. “Let me in Pippa,” grumbled Alex.

“It’s my private time. I don’t have to do anything.”

“You think you have privileges?” Alex chuckled. “You’re a whore.”

“Frankie made her choice. You leave her alone now.”

There was silence on the other side of the door.

Pippa relaxed her hands. “What, you really thought you two would live happily ever after? A whore and a pimp?”

With one forceful blow the chain snapped off and the door crashed open. Alex shook off his leg, brushed the damaged door aside, and walked into Pippa’s flat. His long black coat swung with every movement.

Pippa stepped backwards and found herself backed up against the wall. Alex sauntered up to her, his dark shadow cast across an ageing sofa, and then blocking the light entire. She looked up at his square chin dotted with stubble, and into those deep black eyes. She felt his breath warm and heavy. She had been with him once, a couple times even, but not since Frankie arrived on the scene.

“Tell me,” said Alex.

“I don’t know. After your.. interlude, she left her place. If anyone knows where she is it’ll be Lila.”

Alex turned away. “Lila…”

Pippa took a breath and relaxed her shoulders as Alex retreated.

He turned. “If you’re lying, I will be back for you, and you will have a lot less John’s on your doorstep as a result.”

Pippa shot back. “Doesn’t that mean less for your cut?”

“Indeed. But this matter is worth more to me than a few extra bank notes.”

With a flick of a coattail Alex left Pippa’s flat, leaving the door hanging off its hinge.

***

“You love me?” asked Frankie, faking surprise. “As in true love?”

She pushed Alex off her bare chest and pulled the covers up to her neck. “Well?”

Alex scratched his stubble. “Sorry babe. I know this was… unexpected.”

“You know as well as I, that I can pretend to love a man,” said Frankie.

“Pretend is not what I’m asking,” said Alex.

“Just to be one hundred percent crystal, I’m not your hooker with a free side of fries every time you get that look in your eye.”

“Absolutely not. In fact, I’d rather you quit this line of work altogether.”

Frankie sat up in bed and brushed aside a few loose strands of her neon pink hair. She lay back against the fortress of coloured pillows. “That’s not gonna happen hun.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Alex, as he rested the back of his head on his open palms, an elbow nearly hitting Frankie in the face.

“Wanna know how I got these scars?” Asked Frankie as she pulled the covers off herself exposing her abdomen sporting several long white scars.

“Couple freak Johns I guess,” said Alex.

“Wrong,” said Frankie. “It was pimps. Others, before you took me on.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? I haven’t hurt you,” said Alex.

“Well ain’t that sweet,” said Frankie. “Yet. You haven’t hurt me yet.”

***

Alex rolled up alongside the suburban side-walk. He cut the engine and left the BMW Sedan unlocked on the side of the road. He was outside a small single storey property with a grassy front yard and an overgrown garden. A young boy clicked furiously on a plastic pistol, ducking and diving from imaginary creatures. It appeared as if the invaders were firing out from the overgrown bushes. Alex approached the driveway and the boy stopped what he was doing. Alex kept on walking. The boy aimed his pistol square at Alex’s head and fired. At this distance the gun squeaked a dying sound effect of a gun blast.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” said Alex, waving a Jedi hand. “Also, you might need some new batteries kid.”

Alex walked up to the stunned child and ushered him to the front door. It was open.

“Mooom. Alex is here. I shot him, but he didn’t die,” cried the boy.

There was a rattle of tins in another room and Lila came to the door in a low cut tank top underneath a floral apron. Her hair was dressed in a pony tail and her hands dusted with flour. On seeing Alex, Lila put her floured hands on her hips. “Come here Tim,” she said sternly.

Tim moved for inside, but Alex put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him.

“Alex, leave my child alone.”

“Lila, little Tim here can go along and shoot some more alien scum, but not until you tell me where Frankie is.”

“Do you really think I know where that bitch is?”

“Language,” said Alex, pretending to cover Tim’s ears. Tim looked down at his gun and attempted to clean dirt out from the chamber with his pinky.

“Pippa sent me here.”

“Yeah, well Pippa is a bitch too,” shot back Lila.

“I don’t have time for these games Lila, and I think Tim is tired of them too.” Alex ruffled Tim’s hair. Tim concentrated on cleaning his pistol.

“You dare hurt him…” Lila left the sentence hanging. She threw down her hands in defeat. “She’s at the local Hilton. Room 4E. You can sort your shit out together, just leave us out of it.”

“I’m afraid you two will have to stick with me for a little longer. I can’t have you running off and warning her of my arrival.”

Lila put a hand to her cheek. “What are you going to do?”

***

Alex wrestled with the naked man. He got in a few punches but the pot bellied man slipped out of his grasp and ran butt naked down the hall clutching his side. Panting, Alex turned towards Frankie, who had slipped on a Summer evening gown.

“I told you, no more fucking other men,” said Alex.

“Darling, I’m a pro-sti-tute. That’s how I get paid,” said Frankie.

“You’re with me now goddammit. I make enough so you don’t have to.”

“From your other whores no doubt? Alex, honey, I love you. But I don’t need a man to provide for me. I have my own skill set.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Oh I understand completely. You want to own me, even more than you do already.”

Alex sighed and walked up to Frankie. He placed his hands on her shoulders and Frankie threw them off. Furious at the rejection he swung his arm out and slapped her across the cheek with his palm. Frankie hit the floor with a crack.

“I knew you were just as bad as the others,” Frankie sneered from the floor.

Alex looked from his hand to her already swelling cheek and fled.

***

Alex stood outside Room 4E cracking his knuckles.

Lila and her boy were tied up inside his BMW outside the hotel. The tinted windows hid the struggling pair within.

Alex knocked firmly. He waited for movement but there was only silence.

“Frankie, I know you’re in there.”

He knocked again. “Open the door!”

As with Pippa’s apartment he took a few steps backwards and took a running leap at the door. He hit the door and rebounded. The door remained intact. Alex rubbed his shoulder and investigated the rest of the hallway. He knocked on Room 4F. The door opened and a white-haired woman stood in the frame.

Alex cleared his throat and turned on the sickly sweet. “Excuse me Miss, I’m just a few rooms down. The phone in my room isn’t working and I need to get on the phone. May I come in? It’s urgent.”

The woman eyed the tall, handsome man in his dark coat. There was something about him that wasn’t quite right. “Haven’t you got a cellphone?” She asked.

“I never did. Call me old fashioned.”

The woman shrugged and let him inside. She pointed him towards the phone by her bed. Alex picked it up and dialled Frankie’s number. It dialled ten times before Alex slammed it down in the receiver.

Alex looked out at the balcony. He walked up to the sliding door and unlocked it.

The woman grew concerned. “What are you–”

Alex put his finger to his lips and stepped outside onto the balcony. The balcony was connected with the two rooms on either side with a small barrier in between. Alex heaved himself over it and landed on the other side. The sliding door was open an inch. He opened the door the rest of the way and stepped inside. Frankie lay on her bed with a knife at the ready. She had constructed a fortress out of the plain white pillows provided by the hotel. Frankie kept an eye on the door that lead into the hall. She hadn’t noticed his intrusion.

“Frankie…” Alex spoke softly.

Frankie startled and flicked her eyes over to the man at the foot of her bed.

“Don’t you come any closer,” said Frankie.

“Why did you leave me?” Asked Alex.

“Isn’t it obvious? You’re deranged. You want me to be your trophy wife. I’m not going to lose my independence to the likes of you. Oh and of course the physical violence bullshit. ” She showed him the unsightly bruise on her cheek. It was hidden under concealer, but still noticeable.

Alex took a step forward.

Frankie shoved the knife in his direction. “I don’t know how you found me, but you’re not getting away with any more. You’re done.”

Alex snarled. “I’ll tell you when I’m done bitch.”

Alex rushed onto the bed when a hand shot out from underneath him and pulled him to the floor. Alex had knocked his head and lay dazed while a person emerged from under the bed. It was a muscular, balded man. He stood over Alex with a stone faced glare.

“Who the fuck are you?” Demanded Alex.

“He’s my new pimp,” said Frankie calmly.

The bald man reached down and picked Alex off the floor with one quick scoop. From behind he wrapped his arms around Alex’s chest. Alex kicked and flailed, but gained no traction. He kicked the man in his shins with his heels but he didn’t budge.

Frankie was in front of him now. She looked him up and down and smiled. “See how it feels to be defenceless and at the mercy of a monster.”

Alex opened his mouth. “I love y–”

Frankie plunged the knife into his chest. Blood trickled out of his mouth and he soon hung limp in the man’s arms. The pimp dropped him to the floor.

“He’s not so big and bad now is he?” said Frankie, while her new pimp dragged his body to the other room.

Short Story: A Silenced Roar

Written as part of a Writer’s Plot challenge. First line written by Murray!

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A Silenced Roar

She climbed over the barrier, into the zoo’s lion display.

Roxy landed with a thud on the other side of the barrier. Her backpack was light and she slipped it off her shoulders. The lions were still napping, undisturbed; one on a large rock soaking up the sun, another in the shade of a tree. Her dark brown hair had fallen over her eyes, so she pushed it back over her ears. Roxy fumbled through her backpack to find her tools. She pulled two needles out and held them like weapons.

Two needles. Two lions. Perfect, she thought.

“What is she doing Mum?” a girl on the viewing platform tugged at her mother’s shirt.

“Uhh, I don’t quite know honey. She’s not wearing a zoo uniform. Maybe we should go get someone. Come on darling.”

The mother took her child away from the railing.

Great, thought Roxy. I have even less time than I planned.

Roxy crept forward towards the nearest lion. She arched her back and moved each foot carefully over the grass, avoiding anything that might make an unwanted sound. The lion’s golden chest lifted and fell. The lion was stretched out like a house cat. His tail remained still and his mane ruffled as he exhaled through his nostrils.

Now who’s a good kitty?

Roxy climbed onto the flat rock. She was right above the lion now. She prepped the needle. The clear liquid filled the needle’s chamber. Swiftly she plunged the needle into the lion’s backside. The lion roared and came to his feet. Roxy stumbled backwards and retreated slowly, still facing the lion. He turned to face her, teeth bared. He readied himself to pounce, his tail coiling. Roxy continued her retreat with the other needle in hand at the ready. The lion started dribbling, and his mouth filled with white foam. In seconds the lion’s legs gave way and with one last groan the massive creature collapsed onto the rock. Roxy wiped a tear from her eye.

The other lion, a female, lying under the shade of a tree was awake now and heading towards Roxy. The lioness noticed the crumpled lion on the rock, switched direction, and moved towards him. She nuzzled her partner’s face with her nose, trying to get him to stir. His face simply fell back against the rock. The lioness looked into the sky and roared an awful roar. She looked straight at Roxy who was now with her back against the three metre high barrier.

I probably should’ve thought this through a bit better.

The lion lowered herself to the ground and coiled her tail. Her eyes gleamed in the sunlight. Quickly Roxy turned and tried to get a foothold on the barrier. But the lion was on her. She dove out of the way as the lion charged at her. The lion stopped and snarled. Roxy ran back to the collapsed lion and held out the needle, waving it in the air like a sword. It wasn’t doing much to ward the lion off her. The lioness wouldn’t cross the deceased lion so Roxy walked around the corpse as the lioness followed.

“Lady, get down!” shouted a man dressed in green overalls at the entry gate. He waved a tranquilizer gun and with the other hand struggled with a key in the gate lock. Roxy stepped backwards off the rock and spat at the lion. She let herself fall onto her back. With that the lion sprang over the dead lion and attacked her. Roxy held out the needle and the lion smothered her. Razor sharp claws sliced at her arms, drawing blood. Pain shot through her body.

This is it, I’m going to die.

The lion stopped slashing and whimpered. Foam dripped from her mouth onto Roxy and she collapsed on top of her.

The gate door swung open. Roxy wedged herself out from underneath the heavy lion. The lion’s chin hit the ground and her eyes glazed over fixed in Roxy’s direction. Roxy grabbed her arm to stop the bleeding. It gushed through her fingers. She came to her feet and glared at the terrified zoo keeper and his tranquilizer gun. Roxy noticed something to the left of her; a tranquilizer dart stuck inside her shoulder. The lion den around her began to blur.

Now they’ll finally be free.

Roxy spun around and hit the dirt.

 

The End.

 

Short Story: Down Below

Stairwell

Written as part of a Writer’s Plot assignment. First line written by crime thriller extraordinaire Cat Connor.

Down Below

We started down the stairs. Why is it stairwells all smell so unpleasant? I couldn’t describe the smell but it was almost like musty feet.

The light began to get dimmer as we left the surface above. “Time to flick on that torch,” I said to Frankie beside me on the stairwell. She pulled a phone out of her pocket and began fiddling with the screen. I stopped to wait for her. “You’re telling me you didn’t bring an actual torch?” I could have face palmed myself.

“Who has torches these days?” she defended.

“Smart people.”

“Well, then where’s your one Jules?” she snarked.

“I was under the impression you were sorting out the light situation. It’s what we worked out.”

She finally found control of the tiny LED light at the top of the phone and shone it down the stairwell. It sufficed. Barely. I started after her. The musty smell only grew more intense. The walls were concrete and coated in a dark green moss. “What do you know, there’s life six feet under,” I looked at Frankie who simply glared at me. Sometimes I don’t know why I’m friends with that girl. Oh wait, it was her that got us this location, these musty stairs. Frankie turned away and sighed. It was as if she could read the sarcasm through my face. Was I that obvious?

On the next step my foot caught air and I found myself tumbling. In seconds I came to a crumpled stop at what felt like the bottom. “Jules!” I heard Freddie cry. “Jesus, are you okay?”

I struggled to my feet and patted myself down. My right leg was bleeding slightly and my kneecaps stung like hell. Freddie joined me at the bottom. There was a steel door with a letterbox shaped slot in the middle, and bizarrely no door handle. “How did you fall?” asked Freddie.

“How should I know? You’re the one leading me down this dodgy stairwell.” I said.

“I know as much about this place as you do.”

Frankie pointed her phone’s light down on my legs and I could see the red trickle down into my socks.

“I suppose your phone can’t do Band-Aids?”

She looked apologetic.

“So we knock apparently,” she said.

We both looked at the metal door, the light revealing scrapes in the metal. “Bryce tell you this?” I asked.

“Yeah, that was all I could get out of him. He seemed too scared to tell me anything more.”

“What, you didn’t let him touch your boob or anything?”

I received another glare. They were almost expected now.

“Well I didn’t come here to get bruised up and leave empty handed.” I reached up and knocked firmly. Three times. I could hear footsteps behind the door, somebody running towards it. I stepped back and tugged on Frankie’s hand to do the same. The door remained shut but a hand shot through the slot and dropped a white piece of card that fell to the ground. I gingerly stepped forward and reached down to pick up the card. I stepped back from the creepy door and turned the card over. Frankie leaned her head in to take a look. It was a scrawled note that read: Go Away.

Go away? I literally skin my knees to get here and that’s all we get? I raised my voice at the door, “Oi, stop your little card trick. Bryce sent us. Open up.” The door remained still. Take your damn card back,” I walked up to the hole and thrust it through the gap. Fingers. A hand gripped my wrist and yanked me up to the door. I yelped and wrestled my hand free. The person let go and I wrenched my hand back through the gap and to the safety of my chest. “Fuckwit!” I kicked the steel door with my boot.

Frankie kept her mouth shut. First the stairs, then my hand and now my foot. With all this pain my body was feeling a little raw. I looked over to Frankie who stood unharmed in her perfect little dress still holding out her phone like an idiot. I bit my tongue. “Maybe we should go Jules,” said Frankie.

I looked around in desperation for a tool, another entrance, anything. But there was just more concrete.

“Screw this theory,” I said turning, ready to embark on the epic journey up to the surface. “Look,” said Frankie. She pointed to another white piece of card, lying in the same place the last one fell. “I’m not going near that hole,” I said.

Frankie bent down staying clear of the hole and picked up the note. She showed it to me. This one was scrawled in a hurry: Password idiot.

“Password? You didn’t tell me about any password,” I said.

Frankie shrugged her shoulders. “Bryce told me to descend down these stairs and knock on the door.”

It finally dawned on me. It wasn’t just any knock that would do. They wanted a sequence. “You’re sure Bryce didn’t say anything else?”

“Nope.”

“How about the amount of knocks?”

Frankie screwed up her nose as she tried to remember. “Nothing, I’m sorry Jules.”

I marched right up to the steel door and knocked once. Twice. Three times. Six times in a rhythm. Nothing, and my knuckles were starting to join the pain party with the rest of my body. I stood defeated. “Knock, knock you goddamn door.”

And the door swung open to a candle lit hallway. “Huh,” I murmured.

I heard a figure scamper away, shoes on wet concrete, and I saw a black shadow disappearing around a corner. Frankie switched her phone off and put it away. The candles were enough to light the place up. The door began to close on its own by its own sheer weight, and we rushed inside. The door shut tight behind us. I had a nagging feeling I should check to see if it would open from this side, but I let it pass.

We tracked past flickering candles and though a winding tunnel. I could hear something; voices. “Do you hear that?” I whispered to Frankie.

“I think so. Is it… chanting?”

The tunnel opened up into an alcove above a clearing. The voices were louder now and I could see a circle of red cloaked and hooded individuals chanting around something in the centre of the group. I turned to Frankie. “This what you were expecting?”

“Actually I thought it would be a little less clichéd. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.”

“What’s that in the middle there?”

I leaned over Frankie’s shoulder and squinted. “Some kind of… wait, that’s a person.”

The chanting grew louder, becoming a roar that echoed around the cave. It was unlike any language she had heard. A cloaked figure took down its hood. It was a bald man with some kind of tribal tattoo on his wrinkled forehead. He stepped towards the figure and ripped a blade from under his cloak.

“Jesus Jules, he’s going to kill them.”

Before I knew what I was doing I cupped my hands together and cried out, “Stop!”

The bald man in the hood stopped in his tracks, blade poised in the air above the poor form crumpled on the floor. He looked up at Frankie and I, and tore off his red hood. He spoke in a posh British accent. “Excuse me. Can’t you see we’re in the middle of a ritual? How rude.”

I almost hit the floor. “Umm, you’re about to kill someone. In my world, that’s murder.”

Frankie just stood by watching.

The bald man waved his knife about as he talked. “Girl, this is none of your business. I don’t know why you were let in here, but would you kindly leave? We’re already well behind schedule.”

“Your wrist crunching pal let us in,” I said.

The bald man turned to one of the red cloaks. “Dominic, is this true?”

The figure stepped forward hesitantly, leaving his cloak on. “They were persistent. Plus, they knew the password.”

The bald man sighed. His tattoo almost danced in the candlelight. “I bring this up every committee meeting. Why can’t we have the password changed on a regular basis?”

“It’s too hard for us to remember,” said Dominic meekly. “You try be on door duty once in a while. You’ll see.”

I groaned. “Guys, I appreciate your little dialogue here, but there’s a human sacrifice happening here. An illegal sacrifice. I’m going to call the police.”

Dominic stepped back into the circle and the bald man waved his hand to stop. “No, you can’t do that.”

“And why can’t I do that?”

“Because I… I, err.. don’t have an escape route.”

I nudged Frankie and whispered into her ear. “Psst, call the cops.”

She started dialling. I returned my attention to the unspeakable sight down below me.

“An escape route? Are you serious?” I asked.

“Well you don’t seriously think we’re going to wait around and get captured do you? Our victim is right down there,” he pointed.

“Victim? I sure hope you’re not planning on do anything,” I said.

“That’s the whole thing,” he said gesturing dramatically. “This was the whole plan and you interrupted us. We’re already running late and you waltz in acting like you own the place. Well excuse me, princess.”

Frankie crouched down out of view speaking on the phone in hushed tones.

“Princess?” I was genuinely insulted. “You come up here and say it to my face.”

The bald man looked concerned. “Uh, there’s actually no easy way to get from here to up there.”

“What do you mean? Your Dominic door-boy got down there lickety split.”

“Ah yes, I see your little mix up,” said the bald man. His lips curled.

“Knock knock,” said someone behind me. I whirled around to see a red hooded figure standing square between us and the exit. “You see darlings,” the British accent continued but from a much closer range. “I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together.” With both hands he carefully pulled down his hood to reveal a bald and tattooed face. It was him! I looked down to the bald man down below and back again to this new model.

“Jesus,” said Frankie, her mouth agape.

“It’s not p-possible,” I stammered.

“Oh you’d be surprised what a good sacrifice can get you these days.”

I shouted down to the circle of red cloaks below. “Show me your faces!”

“If you insist,” said the bald man down below. Altogether the group pulled down their hoods and revealed more tattooed heads. Even the one called Dominic.

“The one on the floor,” I demanded. “Show me.”

The bald man’s dagger clattered onto the concrete floor as he bent down to turn over the individual. It was himself, again. Another bald, tattooed man. This time naked and bound at the wrists and ankles, with a gag in his mouth. He didn’t look like he wanted to be there. His eyes were tearful.

“What is this shit?” I screamed. My voice bounced around the chamber walls.

“Now you go and insult our dark practices. Teens these days have no manners,” said the circle in unison.

“We’re sorry to bother you,” called out Frankie. “But we’ll be going now. Enjoy your, well, whatever gives you kicks.”

She started towards the exit, but the man in the doorway put a firm hand on her shoulder.

“You can’t go,” he said sternly. “I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together.”

The man gripped tighter. She struggled to break away. I ran up and tried to pry his arm free, but he was stone solid. I kicked him and he didn’t flinch. “Let her go!” I yelled. Something started happening to Frankie’s face. It became a puddle of pink skin. Her face melted away. “You sick bastards!” One by one facial features popped back onto her face. But these were not hers. No, they were his. His eyes, his twisted smile. That scar. Her hair fell away. The man dropped Frankie to the ground. But it wasn’t Frankie anymore. “We’ll get you both red cloaks, don’t you worry,” said the man in the doorway.

I dropped to Frankie’s side. “Frankie? Are you okay?”

Her– his eyes opened and he grabbed my shoulder, and she — he started speaking in that cartoony British accent, “I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together.”

The End.