The woman donned in colorful scrubs behind the counter at the nurses station stiffens a bit when I approach her. She doesn’t know my face, but she recognizes the authority of my lab coat.
“Good morning, Doctor…?” It’s clear she’s waiting for a name. I give her none. I am not accustomed to explaining myself.
“I’m looking for a patient. Mr. Toomis. What room is he in?”
My abruptness delivers the required response. She pauses momentarily and then, “Uh, he’s down the hall in 234.” She points. “The one with the police officer sitting outside.”
I nod my thanks.
The cop tries to impede me from entering the room. He’s only slightly more challenging to convince. After a quick exchange, I step into the dark room where a fat, balding man lies in bed, hooked to machines.
Removing the syringe from my coat pocket, I inject the contents into his IV. I’ll have less than a minute.
As I push open the doors to the stairwell, a heart monitor beeps it’s sorrowful tone. For one man, the end. For another, a fatter bank account. I leave the lab coat and the empty syringe in the dumpster behind the hospital.
The full moon cast a pale glow on the asphalt. He checked his watch again. 7:14. Andre was late. A knot formed in his belly. Andre was never late. With a final glance around, he turned and retreated to his car. The risk of being caught in the open was too great to give Andre any more time.
A cool breeze made him clench his coat tighter to his throat. If Andre was compromised he’d have to try for the border before dawn. It may already be too late. He grimaced. It wasn’t losing his life he feared most. The mission was more important. Failing to obtain the computer virus that would shut down the defense systems meant the rebellion attack was doomed. There would be no way to stop The Order from launching the nukes.
Keys in hand, he unlocked his car door. It wasn’t until it swung open that he saw Andre’s dead eyes staring at him from the drivers seat. Blood from the severed head stained the fabric. From behind he heard a voice.
“Oh, I”m afraid our systems will be quite operational when your rebellious friends arrive,” Sheila said.
White flakes floated gently down from the dark skies above. As they settled, the landscape outside Corrina’s window took on a pale gray tone. The monochromatic display in front of her would have been a pleasant sight if it were Christmas time. The calendar on the wall showed July. Corrina realized she should have evacuated with the rest of the town after the volcano exploded but she wouldn’t abandon her elderly mother who was too weak to move.
“Is that snow falling?” asked her mother from her bed
“Yes mamma,” she replied as she watched the approaching firestorm. “It’s snow.”
Word Count: 100
[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]
[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.
I went far over the limit this week and so I felt I should include this disclaimer for those who want to keep their reading short. I understand if you choose not to read this as it’s much longer than the challenge allows, but once I started writing the story, I just couldn’t stop. For those that do read it, I truly hope you enjoy it.]
Saretha eyed the colorful bougainvillea that framed the entrance to the garden. When her family first moved to Kalamata six months ago, she’d begged her mother to visit, but had been rebuffed.
“It’s not a public garden, dear. It belongs to an eccentric old woman who apparently doesn’t like visitors. I’m sorry.” her mother had explained.
The path to school took Saretha by the garden twice a day. The intoxicating fragrances from the blossoms beckoned to her and finally, no longer able to obey her mother’s instructions, she found herself wandering through the entrance.
A spectacle of pigments greeted her. Trees, shrubs and vines, all bedecked with blossoms of every shade of the rainbow were laid out before her. A stone path wound its way through the vegetation.
Saretha glided as though in a trance through the winding curves of the pathway. She was so entranced with the living things she scarcely noticed the multitude of statues that punctuated all the grottos. Each depicted a child in various poses. Saretha bent low to smell a bright yellow rose when a voice from behind startled her.
“What are you doing here?”
Saretha spun around and stared wide-eyed at the older woman standing before her. The lady was dressed in a long, white gown, made from some light material that Saretha did not recognize. It swayed in the gentle breeze, exposing much of the woman’s long legs and bare arms.
Upon her head was a wrap made of blue material and her eyes were shaded with dark-tinted glasses. She looked down on Saretha, hands on her hips waiting for a response.
“I – I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be in here. My mom told me it was private property, but it just looked and smelled so beautiful I thought I’d take a quick peek. I guess I wandered in farther than I meant to.”
The woman regarded her intruder for a moment and then smiled.
“That’s quite alright dear. I like a girl with spunk. Never be afraid to follow your heart… or your nose.”
Saretha exhaled heavily. It seemed she might not be in trouble after all. The woman held out her hand.
“Come with me. I’ll give you a tour of the garden.”
Saretha and the woman joined hands and began to walk.
“What’s your name?” asked the woman.
“Saretha,” came the reply.
“A beautiful name,” said the woman. “I am Meddy Venizelos.”
As the two traversed the maze of pathways in the garden, Meddy questioned Saretha on her knowledge of Greek mythology. Months before her family moved to Greece, Saretha had studied the classic tales of lore, including the heroic adventures of Theseus, Heracles and Perseus as well as Homer’s stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
When Saretha mentioned the name Perseus, Meddy stopped before a statue of a young girl who sat on the ground and appeared to be holding her arms up as if shielding herself from something. The arms had broken off the statue, but it was clear from the expression on the girls face the sculptor had meant to depict her as fearful.
Meddy fingered the vines of jasmine that grew up a trellis next to the statue.
“Tell me what you know of Perseus,” she asked, watching Saretha from out of the corner of her eye.
“Well,” began Saretha. “Before Heracles, Perseus was thought to be the greatest Greek hero and slayer of monsters. He was a demigod and the son of Zeus. He’s most famous for slaying the Gorgon Medusa, a horrible beast that had snakes for hair. She had the power to turn people to stone, but Perseus used his polished shield to see reflections and was able to behead her.”
Saretha smiled up at Meddy, hoping her knowledge of mythology impressed her new friend.
Meddy looked down at Saretha. “Yes, that is what most people believe. That horrid Perseus told terrible lies about his encounter with a beautiful creature who’s only crime was to be lovelier than all of the goddesses.”
Saretha watched as Meddy slowly began unwrapping her head covering. She’d not really paid close attention before, but now as she stared she realized that the wrap seemed to be moving.
Meddy continued. “The greatest lie that Perseus told was that he beheaded the Gorgon. Medusa defeated him in battle and was about to add him to her collection of statues when he made a moving plea for his life. He told Medusa of his love for a woman, Andromeda and begged to be spared so that he may return to her. Medusa was so touched by his story, she allowed him to leave with his life.”
Saretha watched in horror as the blue fabric fell away from Meddy’s head to reveal a tangle of writhing serpents, hissing as they squirmed.
“Allowing him to live was the greatest mistake Medusa ever made. She vowed that never again would she let a mortal live if one were to wander so foolishly into her domain.”
The truth slammed Saretha like a hammer to the chest. The intoxicating smells of the garden were meant to lure children in like a rat catching the scent of cheese. The statues that dotted the garden had not been carved. They were the victims.
Meddy bent low as she reached to remove her sunglasses.
“Can you guess what became of the Gorgon, my dear Saretha?”
Saretha’s screams died quickly as her vocal cords transformed from flesh to stone.
“I must find a special place for you, dear. I rather liked you.”
Ricardo had watched the acceptance speech of the new President-elect with growing trepidation. Promises of swift retaliation for anyone who criticized his administration signaled the end of the First Amendment. Ricardo was certain more civil liberties would fall at the hands of this madman.
On the day of the President’s inauguration, the protests had turned to riots and violent unrest broke out in various cities in the country. Those who had supported the new President grew emboldened and found that their actions received virtually no consequence from law enforcement. Those with darker shades of skin or the wrong religious beliefs were dragged into the streets and beaten.
Months passed and the rest of the Bill of Rights crumbled. In Austin, where Ricardo lived, a resistance formed. Those who sought to remove the new dictator from power plotted in secret. But a traitor hid among them and the newly formed death squads that had replaced law enforcement burst into the warehouse. Bullets flew and bodies fell. The only survivor of the massacre, Ricardo barely managed to escape.
Warm blood flowed from the gash above his eye, obstructing his vision, but Ricardo was able to make it to the freeway. He carried all he owned in the bugout bag he’d strapped to his back. His only chance was to find a way to the Mexican border. The construction on the wall on the north side of the Rio Grande was nearly complete and though it’s original purpose was to keep Mexicans out of the US, it now served to keep throngs of Americans from fleeing south. Ricardo knew his chances of survival were slim, but he had to try.
A roar pierced the night air and Ricardo turned his gaze to the sky. A long streak of light slashed the darkness high above him and when he realized what was approaching, Ricardo’s hopes vanished.
The ballistic missile struck the city and a blinding flash was the last thing Ricardo or anyone in the greater Austin area saw before the nuke detonated.
The President sat in the Oval office, watching the destruction from a closed circuit military monitor. Making America Great Again was more fun that he had imagined.
The perpetual gray skies of the cool and soggy northwest mirrored Tommy’s mood. Another day spent within the bare room he’d rented. His only entertainment was watching the residents of the building across the way through his telescopic lens.
“Cat lady’s knitting again,” he noted. “And fat man’s actually making his bed.”
Tommy saw motion from Unit 37. Finally. Spending one more day here might drive him crazy. He took aim, lined up his target and squeezed the trigger.
Crack! His target dropped. Mission accomplished.
Seattle might be great to visit, but he could never understand how folks could live here.
Word Count: 100
[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]
Richard Charles had waited years for this day. Since he was a kid, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle had captivated and perplexed him. Now, standing aboard his salvage vessel, “Berlitz”, he waited anxiously to see the fruit of seven years of hard work and research.
The huge winch rolled the cable up, foot by foot. Thirty minutes later, the coral encrusted plane rested on deck.
“Check the numbers,” he called to Donny as he climbed onto the wing. The cockpit cover was still closed. He wiped away the slime and algae and peered inside. Empty and still locked from within. How could that be?
“This is it!” cried Donny. “One of the Avengers from Flight 19!”
Finally! The Triangle had given up one of its long held prizes.
“Sir, unusual weather approaching fast.”
Looking up, Richard Charles saw the strange green lights in the fog, flashing like ghosts. It swept in faster than a front should move.
“Captain, get us out of here!” Richard yelled to the bridge as the fog enveloped the ship.
Richard Charles spent his life investigating the Bermuda Triangle. On March 4, 1994 he became a part of its history.
A huge crowd had gathered near Clayton Ravine, just outside of Hill Valley. The last quarter moon lit up the small meadow as Marty scanned the crowd of teenagers. There were white T-shirts and poodle skirts everywhere. He steered the DeLorean through the throngs of people that had all shown up to see the race. No one had ever challenged Biff Tannen to a race before, and the fact that it was a game of “chicken” meant that nearly every teenager in Hill Valley would be present.
As he expected, Marty’s car drew gasps and stares from everyone that he passed. He barely noticed the fingers pointing as his mind was focused elsewhere. About fifty yards ahead he spied what he’d been seeking. Biff’s ’46 black Super DeLuxe convertible Ford was parked off to the side of the dirt road that led through the meadow and nearly up to the edge of the cliff that dropped a hundred feet down into the ravine.
Marty navigated his way through all the bodies, his headlights illuminating the pink sweaters and poofy hair. As he neared Biff’s car, he saw the usual assortment of lowlifes, Biff’s “posse”, crowded around the automobile. It took Marty a moment to spot Biff sitting in the driver’s seat.
Biff turned his head as Marty pulled up next to him, the crowd buzzing with excitement. The door of the DeLorean whooshed open and Marty stepped out to face his rival.
There it was. You could see the corner of the folded yellowed parchment sticking out of the torn lining of the battered book. Emma reached for it, mindful of the multitude of strangers in the great library who might be watching. Anton’s agents were everywhere.
Slipping the paper into the breast pocket of her jacket, she desperately wanted to read it’s contents, but she knew every moment counted if she were to solve the riddle and save her father, Professor Wilhelm Richter.
Emma had always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and now she found herself tracing his movements as he had searched for the same clues she was now discovering. Since his disappearance, she’d had no choice.
She found an unoccupied alcove away from prying eyes and withdrew the fragile parchment. The writing was faded but legible.
“One enters this great house blind but emerges seeing.”
Emma frowned. There should be more. She squinted and peered closer. In the dim light she thought she saw additional markings but it would require a magnifying glass.
A shout startled her. She stared at the doorway across the large room and saw that Anton’s men had found her at last.
I must apologize for this little tease as it’s not really a short story. I started writing and found there was so much more happening than I could fit into 200 words. I think I may spend some more time with Emma and see where her little adventure may take me. If I do, I promise to share with all of you.]
Dylan paused on the stony walk that led up from the parking lot of Mont St. Michel and glanced at his watch. It read 2:17 PM. He was late. Chantel asked to meet him at 2:00. Waves rolled water along the walk and Dylan knew that if they stayed too long, the famous tides would strand them on the small island for hours.
On the train ride from Paris to the famous monument, he’d pondered her call from that morning. She’d sounded upset. He assumed it was the stress of the terrorist cell case she’d been working on. As a member of Interpol, stress was a part of her life and she normally handled it with grace, but something in her voice startled him. Her request for him to go to the place where they first met was also mysterious and she wouldn’t explain. Her only response to his inquiries was “Please, just do this for me!”
The text he’d received from her on the train had given him further instructions.
“Go to the top of the Abbey. Look to the east.”
The steep climb to the top, weaving through the crowds was challenging, but when he finally arrived, slightly out of breath he looked around. She wasn’t there. He found a small alcove off of the cloister and sent a return text.
“I’m here. Where are you?”
Long minutes passed before his phone beeped and lit up. Before he could look at it a brilliant flash lit up the sky to the east. After his eyes adjusted he thought he could make out a small mushroom-shaped cloud in the direction of Paris. He gaped at the horrific site. It was only when his phone beeped again, reminding him of his text that he glanced at it. He dropped the phone after reading the message.
Regina carefully applied the crimson lipstick to her pouty lips. Thomas preferred her fully made up and she knew she needed to impress tonight. It was her twentieth birthday and if she was going to ply her sugar daddy for a new car, she’d need to hit him with all of her considerable assets.
“It’s only fair,” she thought jealously as her eyelashes received thickening from her mascara brush. “He surprised Angela with that disgusting Mercedes last June and that was only because they’d had a fight”.
Granted, the fight had been over the amount of time Thomas had been “spending at the office”, his typical cover excuse for his trysts with Regina, but as far as Regina was concerned, she was as deserving of a new automobile as his aging wife.
A knock on the door startled Regina from her thoughts of cruising down Hollywood Boulevard in her new sports car. She glanced at the clock. 6:43. He was early. Really early. A twinge in her stomach told her something was wrong.
It wasn’t the grinning face of her lover that greeted her when she opened the door, but rather the glinting barrel of a .38 snub nose revolver. Angela glared menacingly at her with mascara streaked eyes.
“Were you expecting him?” Angela spat, slowly forcing Regina back into the apartment Thomas provided.
Regina stepped backwards, hands in the air.
“Well don’t. Your loverboy won’t be paying you any more visits. In fact…” she considered. “…he won’t be paying for anything at all.”
“What have you done, Angela?” asked Regina, her voice cracking in fear.
“Well,” began her rival. “Let’s just say I started with six bullets in the cylinder of this gun and I managed to save three for you.”
“Oh God no!” cried Regina, feeling the knot tighten in her stomach.
“He confessed he was coming to see you tonight,” explained Angela slowly, recounting her conversation with her unfaithful spouse. “He told me it was your birthday.”
“Angela, please,” begged Regina, tears welling in her eyes. “Don’t do this.”
“Oh, don’t do this? Really? And what if I had asked the same of you? What if I had asked you to stop sleeping with my husband? To stop bleeding our bank account? What would you have said?”
“I… I didn’t mean…” Regina faltered.
“You know what?” Angela asked, tipping her head to the side. “Maybe I’ll give you a birthday present of my own.”
She waved the gun towards the bedroom.
“I’ll give you five minutes to pack a bag and clear out of here. If you’re gone by…” Angela glanced at the clock on the wall. “…6:50, I’ll keep your three “presents” inside the gun. What do you say?”
Regina realized this was her opportunity to save herself.
“Ok, ok, I’ll go!” she cried.
She had a bag ready in three minutes. Scooping it up in one hand and her purse in the other, she fled from the apartment still shaking in terror.
Angela noticed a half-filled pack of cigarettes on the coffee table. Pulling one from the pack, she placed it her mouth. She pointed the tip of the gun barrel to the end of the cigarette and pulled the trigger. A flame shot up from the gun. As the smooth tobacco smoke curled around her face she smiled.
“Have a seat on the red park bench and wait for further instructions,” the voice on the phone told Joshua.
Dr. Joshua Parker, famed neurosurgeon took a seat, setting down the heavy brown satchel. His hand trembled slightly, a condition to which he was not accustomed.
A scruffy man in his late 40’s wearing a brown overcoat approached and sat beside Joshua, never once meeting his gaze.
“Is it all there?” the man asked quietly.
“Yes, yes, I did as you asked. A quarter of a million in smaller bills. Now please…” Joshua pleaded. “…Where is my son?”
“All in good time, doctor,” said the man. He reached down for the handle of the bag. As he did so, Joshua uncapped the needle on the syringe he had concealed in his right hand. More than any other time in his life, he prayed for steadiness.
In one swift stroke, he jammed the needle deep into the man’s leg and pushed the plunger. The man jerked back in surprise and pain.
“What the hell did you just do?” he cried, eyes wide.
Joshua bared his teeth as he responded. “That was fifty milligrams of Fierce snake venom,” he began. “Ever heard of it?”
“Wha…” began the man, holding his leg. He’d forgotten all about the ransom money.
“It contains both neuro and hemotoxins and is the most toxic venom in the world. Based on the dosage I just administered directly into your quadricep, I estimate you have about an hour before paralysis sets in and you begin to bleed from your eyes. You won’t be able to move, but the pain will be intense. You’ll be dead within two hours… unless of course…”
“Unless what?” cried the man frantically.
“Unless I tell you where I hid the anti-venom,” Joshua replied. “Now, where’s my son?”
The man stared at Joshua blankly.
“Come now, every second counts,” replied the surgeon.
“How do I know you’ll keep your end of the bargain if I tell you where to find him?” asked the man.
“You don’t, but do you have a choice?” asked Joshua
“A dark blue Ford SUV…” began the man. “Parked around the corner about a hundred yards from here.”
“Wait,” cried the man. “The anti-venom?”
“Stay seated on the bench and wait for further instructions,” he said over his shoulder.
Ten minutes later Joshua drove from the park with his son sitting next to him. The man on the red bench waited for nearly two hours for a call that never came.
[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words. I went well over the word limit this week, so again, my apologies, but I hope the story was worth it.
My description of the symptoms and timing of the onset of the venom may be off a bit, but Fierce snake venom does contain both neurotoxins as well as hemotoxins and death would be pretty awful from this snake bite. I also didn’t reveal the setting of this story, but it most likely took place in Melbourne, Australia as the Fierce snake is only found on that continent and the anti-venom is manufactured there.]