NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2018

This is my first time participating in this short story challenge. Round 1 started on Jan 27 and all competitors had 8 days to enter their short story of no more than 2500 words. I was also given an assigned genre, subject, and character. It will be a little while before I find out whether I have made it to the next round. Here is what I came up with.
Round 1 Heat 27
Genre: Thriller
Subject: Angry mob
Character: Sick Child

Loop

 

Synopsis: For Cassidy, the struggle to understand the difference between memories and reality is a challenge.

Can she escape a villain that’s always one step ahead?

 

Blood smeared across the windshield as he rolled over the hood of the car. The sound of metal denting under his weight sickened her. For a brief moment she caught sight of his blank gaze before he fell and hit the ground.

Cassidy searched the growing crowd for her husband. Unable to find him, she squeezed her eyelids shut. The display of anger and violence outside the safety of the car made her anxious.

A raspy cry pulled Cassidy from her thoughts. She looked into her rear-view mirror and into the fevered eyes of her two-year-old son.

“Mama.” His little hands stretched toward her.

Cassidy reached back between the leather seats and touched his leg. Heat radiated through his pyjamas. They should have brought him sooner.

A loud thump caused Cassidy to jump and let out a small cry. The metal roof crunched overhead, and the car rocked. She stared upward, praying for it to stop.

“Mama,” Owen cried again.

Cassidy refocused her attention to the rear-view mirror. Owen’s face turned red. He drew his arms toward him and hugged his chest as a violent cough racked his body. A string of spit hung from his fever-cracked lips. He pumped his legs as though the action helped to draw in air. He exhaled a loud and exhausting wheeze and closed his eyes.

“Owen!” Cassidy unclipped her seat belt and twisted around to face the back. She reached over and placed her hand on his hot forehead. Owen’s eyelids flickered open; his glassy eyes stared at her for a moment before he closed them again.

Cassidy pressed two fingers against her carotid; her pulse hammered underneath.  Her free hand clenched into a fist. “Slow down,” she whispered. She tapped her foot on the floor in an attempt to expend the excess adrenaline flowing through her veins. Her anxiety mounted.

She took a deep breath and swivelled back in her seat. Her hands gripped the steering wheel. She had to find a safer entrance to the hospital. Cassidy reached for the key, a small photo of her and Owen encased in a keychain swung from her husband’s key ring.

A loud smack on the driver’s window caused Cassidy to forget about starting the engine. She flinched and turned toward the sound. A large hand pressed against the window. Its owner glared at her and shook his head. He grinned and slapped the glass again. Cassidy jumped, and he laughed.

She flopped back into her seat and closed her eyes against her tears. Her heart thumped in her ears as the car jostled back and forth. The motion made her queasy.

Cassidy weaved her fingers through her hair, clutched the top of her head, and rocked. “I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t,” she screamed. But her words were only for her ears. The loud mob outside didn’t hear and anyone close enough didn’t care.

She allowed the panic attack to take hold. Fear of the outside encased her physical body and warped her mind. Terrifying thoughts raced through her head as her eyes darted from window to window. The mob swarmed the car. Faces peered in at her; fists pounded the glass; hands jiggled the door handles. Cassidy continued rocking, her anguish at full peak.

“Ma-ma.” Owen choked.

Cassidy pulled her hands from her head; strands of hair clung to her fingers. She opened her eyes and looked into the mirror.

Owen’s brown eyes bulged; his lips tinged blued. His little legs drew towards his chest as his pudgy fists batted the air.

“On my God!” Cassidy spun around and squeezed between the front seats. Her fingers shook as she depressed the harness release button on the car seat.  Nothing happened. She tugged the straps and pushed the release button again. Owen’s exhale wheezed in her ears.  “Come… on!” She tugged harder. Owen’s flailing hands caught in her hair.

“Ma…” Owen tried to speak.

Cassidy stopped for a second and looked at her son. His wide and terrified gaze focused on her face. She pressed the release button with both thumbs; the click echoed.

She untangled Owen’s hands from her hair and pulled the harness over his head. His body stiffened as she pulled him into her arms. His shallow gasps blew into her ear.

The mob surrounded them; Cassidy paused, paralyzed by fear.  Bodies pressed and banged against the car. Muffled shouts of anger made her shrink.

Owen’s strangled breath drove her into action. “I have to,” she said. Her stomach rolled. Cassidy unlocked the back door and shoved it open. “Get the fuck out of my way!” she screamed as she scrambled from the car. She could not loose Owen.

Owen’s limp body flopped in her arms as Cassidy ran toward the emergency room entrance. She reached out for the door and yanked on the handle. She stared at the still closed door for a moment with Owen slumped over her shoulder. Her hand slammed against the bar; this time she pushed and rushed through the open door. Help!” Cassidy cried. Her plea alerted the staff. They rushed forward and lifted Owen’s tiny frame from her arms and hurried him away.

“He’ll be okay.” A nurse assured her. “You got him here in time.”

Cassidy shook her head. “I don’t know. The mob outside, my husband, they wouldn’t let us through. What’s going on?”

The nurse’s attention flicked toward the door. Cassidy followed her gaze.

No crowd had gathered anywhere outside. A few people strolled past on the street. Cars pulled in and out of the parking lot. Cassidy’s gaze fell on a black car parked by the curb, untouched – undamaged.

The doors opened and a couple with a child walked in. Cassidy stared at them. The woman gave her a half-smile and Cassidy nodded. She pressed her fingers to her neck; her pulsed had returned to near normal.

A hand rested on her shoulder. Cassidy startled for a moment but it did not bring the fear she’d expected.  “Let’s go see that handsome young man of yours, Cassidy.” The nurse offered her a warm smile.

“It wasn’t real, was it?” Cassidy turned and looked at the now familiar face. The ER dissolved in front of her eyes; a more sedate waiting area took its place.

The nurse shook her head. “It never is.” Her warm smile turned to one of pity.

“And that car, it’s not mine.”

“No.”

Cassidy sighed and stared down at her running shoes. “At least I put on shoes this time.”

The nurse smiled. “Come on, he’s waiting.”

“He is here? Owen is okay?” Cassidy needed reassurance.

“You know he is.” The nurse placed a hand on Cassidy’s back and guided her toward the elevator.

Cassidy nodded. “How far did I get this time?” The elevator doors opened and they stepped inside.

The nurse pressed the button marked number six and the doors closed. “Outside, all the way to that car by the curb.”

“I think I’m getting better. Don’t you?”  Cassidy ran a hand through her hair as she looked at her older reflection in the mirrored wall.

The nurse smiled. She hoped Cassidy would get better but after ten years she didn’t think it was possible any more. Cassidy’s brain remained fixed on the day an angry mob killed her husband and almost cost her, her son. She would relive it again tomorrow, and the day after. The villain in her head ensured she remained stuck in an unending loop.

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Poor Joe

Today’s Daily Prompt from The Daily Post – Creature

 

“Don’t go in there,” I whispered to Joe, a character in a horror movie I watched from the safety of my living room. He disregarded my warning. His hand instead searched the wall for the light switch. It clicked but no light erupted in the stairwell to the basement.

My skin prickled as the strange and creepy groan floated up the stairwell again. I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees. Blue light from the television bathed me in its eerie glow.  “Get out, you idiot,” I begged.  Joe, once again ignored me.

Armed with a flashlight, Joe descended the stairs. I grabbed a pillow from beside me, ready to cover my face should the need arise.

Joe stopped. He stood, where I guessed was mid-way down. His flashlight shone ahead of him, but he did not show us what he saw. His eyes registered something but it wasn’t fear. Perhaps he’d changed his mind. I hoped he had as another groan stood the hair up on the back of my neck.  He stepped down and continued his wayward trek. I flopped back on the couch, resigned that there was no help for Joe. If he wouldn’t listen to me he was on his own.

Moments later, I covered my face with the pillow. Joe’s blood-curdling scream was more than I could handle.  Poor Joe, I switched off the TV and turned on the lamp beside the couch. The yellow light warmed the dark room and chased away any remaining creepiness.

“Oh! Crap!” I glanced at my cell phone. Time had gotten away from me and Worcestershire, my brown tabby, was still outside.

I shook his favourite treats and shone the flashlight around the back yard. Trees, shrubs, rocks, everything caught in the beam but my cat. “Wooster!” I called. My call interrupted a nearby whippoorwill. It quieted and then continued its telltale song further away from the house.

Finally, after several minutes, Wooster cried back. I called again but instead of coming to my voice, he refused. He must have cornered a small mouse. It was the only thing that would keep him from running toward the sound of shaking cat treats.

“Come on, Wooster.” A clatter came from the direction of the shed, the place where Wooster loved to hunt. The old building harboured many a rodent, a hunting haven for my cat.

Small, yellow orbs glowed in the flashlight’s beam, all I could see of Wooster as the rest of his body lay hidden behind a small shrub growing up against the shed. “Come on, Wooster. It’s getting late.”

Unimpressed by my intrusion, Wooster hissed. Leaves on the shrub rattled as though a breeze blew through it. My flashlight flickered, and I hit the side of it. The light strengthened.

I reached down behind the shrub and pulled Wooster into my arms. He purred in my ear and head bumped my forehead. He’d forgiven my interruption of his hunt.

As I moved away from the shed another clang from inside caught my attention. “What do you have hiding in there?” I said to Worcestershire as he jumped from my arms. The noise had scared him and he ran back toward the house with a loud hiss. “Scaredy cat,” I called after him and laughed.

I pulled open the shed door and shone my light around the floor. A mouse skittered under a wood box and I jumped; my hand flew to my chest. “Shit!” I whispered.

My eyes followed the beam as it lit up the rest of the shed. The light trailed up the side walls, along the shelves, and then came to rest.

The beam trembled in my paralyzed hand. Caught in the light, large yellow eyes glowed and pointed teeth dripped with drool. Sharp claws cut short my blood-curdling scream as my mind tried to puzzle out the nature of the creature before me.

The flashlight fell to the ground. My fleeting thoughts flashed to Wooster as he’d tried to warn me with his hisses and cries. But I’d ignored him, and now I met my fate, just like poor Joe.

 

 

The Shock of it All

The Daily Post – Shock

 

The shock from the frigid water caused Sarah to gasp for air. Her hands paddled and feet kicked to keep her head above the water. Her heart thumped loud and strong in her ears, if she didn’t get out soon hypothermia would set in, she convinced herself.

Only a few more feet to go, Sarah’s voice screamed inside her head. All the feeling of sleepiness she’d had moments before were erased by the sudden cold. She was wide awake now.

The end was in sight. Soon she’d be free from the gripping cold that numbed her body. All Sarah could think about was getting out, nothing else mattered.

Sarah stretched forward; her hands wrapped around the metal rails. She pulled the rest of her body through the water. Her cold feet climbed up the steps.

Goosebumps rose on her skin and she shivered; her teeth rattled in her head. Sarah hurried toward the chair, grabbed her towel, and wrapped it around her body. She convulsed a final time then settled as warmth slowly spread over her body. She closed her eyes; her muscles relaxed, and her teeth stopped rattling.

Sarah could think of better things to do at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning and swimming lessons with pool temperatures of only 14° C was not one of them. Worst thing was she had to do it again on Sunday.

 

 

The Exam

The Daily Post – Study

“Are you ready?” Mom’s eyebrows rose high on her forehead. The usual ‘good morning’ or ‘did you sleep well?’ clearly would not be a part of our morning’s pre-breakfast banter.

I rolled my eyes. “What do you think?” I pulled a mug out of the cupboard and filled it with coffee, leaving just enough room to add cream and sugar.

“Must have been a late one.” Mom winked as she filled her own mug with coffee.

My eyes watered as a yawn stretched my mouth wide. “Later than I planned.” I’d been studying for days or maybe even weeks; I couldn’t remember. I plunked myself down at the table and closed my eyes.

“Well, you’ll do just fine. Here, I made you breakfast.” Mom placed a plate with scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, and some fresh fruit in front of me.

I wished I had as much confidence with my studies as she did. “No bacon?” I played in the eggs with my fork.

“Afraid not.”

We ate our breakfast in silence; my brain rattled off everything I’d studied throughout the night and early morning hours. I didn’t bother trying to stop it.

“Well, I’ve got to run.” Mom picked up her empty plate and placed it into the sink. She grabbed her keys and purse and kissed me on top of the head. “Good luck!” She called out as she headed out the door.

I pulled into the testing centre; the clock in the car showed I still had a half hour. I tried to remember the drive, which was much quicker than I’d expected, but it was all a blur.

Once inside, I found a quiet place in the corner of a large waiting area and closed my eyes. I focused my thoughts on my breath, feeling my lungs inflate and deflate. My pulse slowed and the constant chatter in my head quieted.

My eyes opened several minutes later to a room full of people and their quiet chatter. A slow smile spread across my lips as confidence washed over me. I was ready.

Water Under the Bridge

The Daily Post – Forlorn

 

A boy sat on the ground. The brim of his blue ball cap shaded his face as he drew lines in the dirt with a stick. A pair of running shoes rested about a foot away, tossed on the ground, their laces tied. The laughter and shouting of other children playing soccer nearby caused him to raise his head, the forlorn expression on his face now visible to anyone who took notice.

He wiped his tear streaked cheeks and dried his hands on his grey shorts. He nodded as three children approached him. His hands reached for the shoes and he pushed a dirty foot into each one and stood.

A little girl wrapped her arms around the boy’s middle and gave him a quick hug. He pulled off his cap, combed his fingers through his blonde hair and readjusted his ball cap back onto his head. A smile spread across his face and replaced the sad look he wore minutes before.

The group of children rejoined the others. Within seconds the boy in the blue ball cap took possession of the soccer ball. Amidst cheers from his teammates, he weaved around the other players until he came face-to-face with the goal tender.

The boy paused for a second. In that brief moment he stared down the goalie, smiled, and delivered a precise kick. The ball sailed over the goalie’s head and into the net.

The boy and his teammates celebrated with cheers and pats on the back both with each other and the opposing team. Whatever had saddened him earlier no longer mattered; it was water under the bridge.

Brave Little Girl

The Daily post – Allergic

 

“Mommy, a bee stung my finger and it hurts.” I heard her sad little voice over the phone.

Hailey had been away at horse camp for less than twenty-fours and this was the second time she’d called. The first was the night before just before bed. One of the other campers had been homesick and her tears caused the rest of the girls, aged seven to nine, to call home. This was after all Hailey’s first experience with the week-long summer camp about a half-hour drive away.

“I’m sorry honey, but you’ll be fine. You’ve been stung before, you aren’t allergic. I’m sure Mrs. Moore will put something on it.” I said. I wasn’t worried in the least.

“Yes, I have ice on it right now, it helps a little.” Hailey sniffed.

“Are you okay now?” I asked.

“Yes, mommy.”

“Are you having fun?”

“Yes.” Hailey’s voice perked up. “We had breakfast and then played tag. We’re going to ride later.”

“Oh good. You’re going to have a fun time this week.” We spoke for a few more seconds and then said our goodbyes.

After about ten minutes, the phone rang again. This time it was Mrs. Moore. She told me that Hailey had started to itch a little. She told me she believed Hailey had been stung by a honey bee as she had been under an apple tree. Mrs. Moore, being allergic to bees herself, had removed the stinger carefully and had been keeping an eye on her, but now she thought that we should come and get her and take her to the hospital, just in case. Other than the itching, Hailey had no other allergy symptoms.

My husband and I jumped into our car and headed out to the horse camp. My stomach knotted and it was difficult not to worry. We’d already lost an infant daughter four years earlier and the pain of that day came rushing back. The half-hour drive was unbearable.

We pulled into the laneway and before we could even get out of the car, one of the riding instructors informed us that Mr. and Mrs. Moore had decided to take Hailey to the hospital.

My heart raced as we drove as quickly as possible down the back roads the half-hour or more to the hospital. Once again, memories of losing our other daughter came back.

Mr. and Mrs. Moore met us in the emergency room when we arrived. They had only been at the hospital for about five minutes and Hailey was already in an examining room. We thanked them and a nurse led us to the room.

Relief washed over me when I saw Hailey, despite her puffy eyes and the redness that covered her from head to toe. We hugged her immediately. Seconds later, her room was a buzz of activity.

The doctor assessed Hailey and asked us a few questions. She was indeed having an allergic reaction to the sting and they needed to act quickly before any more symptoms appeared.

“What are you doing?” Seven-year-old Hailey demanded as the doctor sat on a stool beside the bed and began wiping the inside of her left arm with an alcohol swab.

“We need to put an IV in your arm,” he said as a nurse wheeled over a pole with an IV bag hanging from the top. “It’ll just be a quick little poke and then it’ll be over.”

“Hold on, just give me a second to calm down,” Hailey said in all seriousness. She took a few deep breaths. “Okay.”

The doctor glanced up at me and I shrugged. He inserted the IV needle into brave Hailey’s arm and taped it into place. Then he rose from the chair.

I held my daughters hand and squeezed it. The doctor returned a few seconds later with a syringe in his hand.

“What are you doing?” Hailey demanded again. She’d seen the needle before I had.

“You need a shot of adrenaline,” the doctor said.

“Just give me a second to calm down,” Hailey said again.

The doctor looked at Hailey. “You don’t have a second to calm down.” And with that he swabbed her shoulder and quickly injected the adrenaline.

The doctor looked at my husband and I told us that the adrenaline would make her sleepy and that we would be staying until all symptoms of her reaction were gone.

At ten o’clock that night we left with Hailey and a prescription for an epi-pen, which we got filled that night at a twenty-four hour pharmacy. We brought Hailey home and the next day, at her insistence, took her back up to finish the week at horse-camp.

 

Based on a true story.

Names have been changed – my daughter’s, because she wouldn’t want her name mentioned (she’s 25 now) and Mr. and Mrs. Moore because I can’t remember their actual names (not that I would have posted it anyway).

Yes, my daughter really did tell the doctor to let her calm down – twice. The doctor allowed her to the first time but not the second.

Reserved Reservation

The Daily Prompt – Reservation

 

“Do you have a reservation?” The severe expression on the woman’s face gave no sign of easing.

I swallowed and stared at the man asking the queued individual beside me the same question, his countenance just as serious.

“Well?” She tapped a finger on her tablet.

“I… I don’t know.” My mouth had suddenly become dry.

“You don’t know?” Her eyebrows shot up and disappeared underneath the peak of her grey cap.

I shook my head, the movement almost unnoticeable. I pushed my hands deeper into the pockets of my black jacket. The hard plastic covering of my Citizen ID pressed into my palm. My skin prickled with goosebumps as the air turned colder. “They told me to come here.”

“They?” She tapped her tablet again.

A few people from the lineup beside me walked through the entrance. Whoever stood behind me heaved a loud and impatient sigh.

“My… my family.”

“What name?” She asked in a quiet monotone voice.

“I don’t know,” I said, fighting to keep my voice steady and failing. Her eyes glared at me. “Try Bailey, Beatrice Matilda Bailey.”

The woman typed; a second later she shook her head.

My stomach knotted. No one told me it would be under a reservation. “Bob… Robert Earnest Bailey?”

“Are you asking me?” The woman’s eyes narrowed.

“No… I just don’t – ”

“Mars Shuttle 8 will depart in two hours. Please make sure all paperwork is ready.” A voice boomed from an invisible source.

“Paperwork?” I questioned. My heart raced.

“No reservation, no need to worry about paperwork. Name?”

“Robert – ”

The woman interrupted me. “Nope, tried. One more guess and then off you go.”

Panic began to build. I needed to get on that shuttle and yet I was terrified about the journey, but I was even more terrified to stay behind. I doubted everything.

I stared at the other line. People moved by their guard and slipped inside the entrance, their faces vacant as though they were stepping inside an elevator. The lineup behind me grew more restless. I picked up the odd profanity and knew the words were directed at me.

“How should I know whose name the reservation is under if I don’t even know which of my family members made the reservation?” Nervous and hurried words rolled out of my mouth. “I have a big family.” I said as an afterthought in a quieter voice.

The woman shook her head and one corner of her mouth drew up into a partial smile, though she looked annoyed. “YOUR name.”

My cheeks burned red. “Oh. Gwen Beatrice Bailey.”

The woman tapped on her tablet. “You’re clear.” She stepped to the side.

“I don’t have any paperwork?” I stared at her open mouthed.

“Not my problem. Now go.” She turned away and asked the person behind me.

I stepped through the entrance unsure of what would happen next. I only hoped that my Citizen ID would prove as the necessary paperwork.