Friday, May 12, 2006

Flashlight Tag, Part 2 (Fiction)

(Just joining us? Go back to Part 1)

       Sounds fly far in the darkness. In every direction, they rustled, like windy leaves.
       Minutes passed before all traces of them faded. When they did, the black skies pressed lower, and Craig stood rooted with the trees. His lidless eyes stared.
       "You ever hear them crying?" he whispered.
       "What?" someone asked.
       Stephen inched backward. The guy was a freak.
       "You ever hear them crying?" he repeated.
       "Oh, cut the shit, Craig. Jesus. Save it for your summer camp."
       A smile slithered over Craig's face.
       "He's not a camp counselor anymore, dumbass. He's got a bank internship. When he gets his degree, they'll probably hire him."
       Stephen crunched onto a twig. Craig's glare snapped onto him. The retreat froze.
       "Have you heard them," Craig asked.
       Stephen stared. He made no move to answer.
       "Have you?"
       A beam spotlighted Stephen's face. He shielded his eyes.
       "Get that off me!"
       "Have you?"
       "I said get that Goddamn light out of my face!"
       The light clicked off. The eyes of the group burrowed into the two of them.
       "Alright. Alright. If you won't tell them, I will," Craig said. "A little boy died in these woods."
       One of them snickered. "Bullshit."
       Craig shot a stony arm down the mountain. "People abandoned that cottage down there for a reason," he said.
       Someone swallowed. His Adam's apple curtsied.
       "It was winter," Craig said. "Back in the 40's. A family lived in that cottage, but the father died in the bluestone quarries. The mother was barely holding it together. For herself and her son."
       Craig stepped toward the long slope down.
       "It was deathly cold that night. And late. The wood stove burned full force, and it couldn't stop them from shivering. The mother went outside to get more wood. That's what started it."
       Craig stepped again.
       "The little boy woke from a nightmare. He was scared. You can't blame him. He wanted his mother. But when he opened the door to look outside, he couldn't see her. The woodpile was on the side of the house."
       "Don't even tell me he went out there!"
       Craig shrugged. "Why would he, right? It would be crazy. It was freezing out there. But that's exactly what he did. He walked out into that horrible night. His mother didn't hear him. She didn't see him."
       The circle of faces furrowed.
       "Something drew him into these woods," Craig said, stabbing his light downward. "Something that walked this very ground."
       No one breathed.
       "His mother didn't even know he was out of bed. She saw the empty sheets in the morning. By then, a lake snow had covered all the footprints. They searched, but didn't find him for days. Two miles deep. Frozen with feet torn open from rocks and ice."
       Craig was lying out his ass. Stephen knew it. Yet there was a shard of truth. Years before. An even darker night.
       They waited.
       The crickets sang.
       "TIME'S UP!" Craig screamed.
       They nearly leapt into the trees from shock.
       Craig laughed and laughed.
       "I can't believe you fell for that!"
       "You're such an asshole, Craig."
       "Come on, don't be a bunch of old ladies!"
       "Kiss my ass."
       "Hey, I'm not the one who started it. Stephen did!"
       They turned.
       They waved through the gloom with their lights.
       The katydids chattered. Stephen was gone.

On to Part 3


mermaid said...

Eerie. Why do I get this horrible feeling that Stephen will suffer, when Craig should? That sounds really judgmental, but what a creep.

The sad thing is, Craig's character is in us all, that part of us that yearns to inflict suffering on others as if by doing so we cure ourselves of our own disease.

anne said...

Very, very nice.
I like how I thought "who talks like that??" when Craig was saying that the wood stove burned full force, and it couldn't stop them from shivering, because that language/tone didn't seem to fit in with his character, and then you said he was lying out his ass.
In fact, I like Craig, even though I'll probably live to regret it.
This is excellent! (imagine this last with me jumping up and down and shrieking, the whole shebang.)

Scott said...

I like the last two lines. The katydids chattered. Stephen was gone. Nice cliff hanger. I'm not going to make any predictions here. The ending I think will be surprising.

Flood said...

Well, my heartbeat was speeding up before I found out I was being lead down the garden path. I am very worried about what the shard of truth is, though.
"Don't even tell me he went out there!" Loved this, perfect.
Not only have you given yourself lots of different directions to take this, but the reader is never going to be able to predict the end. Great!

Bernita said...

I keep wondering why you waste this excellent stuff on us.

Anonymous said...

Mermaid, you're right. We all have a little Craig. Hopefully as we mature, we can keep him locked in the attic.

Anne, I loved your comments! I decided to make this opening like being blindfolded, led somewhere, and spun. When the blindfold is pulled, you no longer have any sense of direction. Anything could happen.

Scott, I do love the cliffhangers! That's the best part of serial stories. Maybe I should try to be a soap opera writer. ;)

Flood, perfect! I want this to feel wide open. The fear should be greater then. (Hope you didn't mind the garden path. I giggled when I wrote the reveal, because I, like Craig, was misleading the readers).

Bernita, thanks for the compliment! Although it may seem like a waste to write stories just for a blog, I'm taking the long, long view here. What is truly a waste for me is to labor in the dark, alone, only to find novel after novel rejected for bad writing and storytelling. I'm sharpening my skills here while providing a little entertainment. What you won't see posted is my novel. That is for traditional publication only.

Benjamin Solah said...

This story drew me in. Craig is an evil bastard and then there's a little history revealed and for some reason, I think there's something more to Stephen.

Eileen said...

AAAh you can't just stop there! Write more right now.

Melissa Marsh said...

I echo Eileen's sentiments - we need more, Jason! I want to know what happens! I have a feeling that there is something Stephen isn't revealing about his past...

Bailey Stewart said...

Your set-up is perfect, the tone and structure of the piece rivets the reader to the scene. And I love your cadence. I look forward to more.

Brian said...

See, this is exactly why I always hated flashlight tag. The neighbor kids were evil.

Love it. Keep it coming.

Kelly Parra said...

Your dialogue is awesome, very natural. I'm enjoying this very much, Jason! =D

beadinggalinMS said...

OMG! Jason when I read "TIME'S UP!" Craig screamed.
They nearly leapt into the trees from shock.
My heart was beating fast and I jumped. I like this very much! You sure know how to keep me coming back for more. :)

Anonymous said...

Benjamin, welcome welcome! Glad to have you here. You're correct. Both characters will play a role in the rest of the story.

Eileen, I'm on it!

Melissa, see above. ;) We'll be hitching a ride on Stephen's shoulder next.

Eve, thanks for the high praise/feedback! I've been working hard on those elements of my writing.

Brian, hehe. I know what you mean!

Kelly, much appreciated. It's just as important to hear what is working well as it is to hear what needs improvement.

BeadinggalinMS, that's so cool!! You actually felt the shock. :D Thanks for being such a faithful reader.

Mark Pettus said...

Very nice. Waiting patiently for part 3.

Antonia said...

like that mixture of them being a lil bitchy against each other and then that sudden creepyness...

Terri said...

This whole scene brings back that scary feeling from when we were kids and used to tell each other scary stories. This scene is very realistic.

Anonymous said...

Mark, thanks! It won't be too long. Late Tuesday night.

Antonia, I'm trying to give these characters a little extra dimension. Not just a straight scary story. Glad it's coming through!

Terri, I appreciate the feedback. :) I wasn't sure if I captured that feeling of a story told to a group.