Friday, June 23, 2006

Entry #12

"The Midnight Road"
by Jim Stitzel

Drive faster!

Rain lashed, wipers slashed, Cort plowed through the pouring rain, the demons of his past - both real and imagined - pursued him close behind.

Wind whistled, debris whirled into the road ahead of him, utility poles fell behind him. That's how he knew they were still chasing him.

Stomach tied in knots, sweat pouring down his face.

A bump, thump, and the car died. The tension in Cort's body ratcheted up another few notches.

Gotta run, gotta get away.

Then, They're here!

He leaped from the car even before it could come to a complete stop. Left the road - that's where they were - and dashed into the open field beside it.

Gotta hide. Oh, god! Can't shake them. They'll find me, anyway, his fevered mind screamed.

Shadows whipped about him, flittered, fluttered. Low hisses of eagerness issued from the assailing darkness.

Skin prickled; invisible claw briefly caressed the back of his neck and was gone. He ran harder.

Out of breath, out of time, out of options.

He screamed in fear and pain. Red ribbons slashed into his back.

Stumbled. Fell.

They were on him in an instant. Dozens of them. Tearing. Clawing. Ripping. He'd never had a chance to get away, even on the highway. Their claws had already been too deeply embedded.

Moonlight filtered through wind-driven clouds. And he was alone, then, as ever he had been.

But the damage was done, life leaking from his savaged body as it lay sprawled there in the moon-washed openness.

[Jim Stitzel writes a lot at Writer's Blog and also contributes to The Curveball Conspiracy.]


Flood said...

And he was alone, then, as ever he had been.

Jaye Wells said...

Ok this isn't fair. Who were they? Why did they do that? Nice tension in this.

Jerilyn Dufresne, author said...

"Low hisses of eagerness issued from the assailing darkness."

Wow...nice! And scary!

Anthony Rapino said...

Nice. I love the anonymous killers.

Scott said...

I was intrigued by the falling telephone poles. Who are they? I like the way you are not explicit on this point, and let me imagine.

Bhaswati said...

The tension is built up nicely. And yes, the mystery killers sure piqued my interest.

Jeff said...

Nice and creepy. Good pacing. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the comments. The killers are quite possibly not so anonymous as you might think - 'they' refers back to the demons (in very corporeal form, though the question remains, just how real are they?) of Cort's past, though the vague circumstances surrounding the existence of said demons might give them a certain air of anonymity.

Scott, one of the things I love about flash fiction, especially of this sort where the upper word limit is so constrained is being able to leave so many details to the readers' imaginations. It's kinda fun to paint a sharp foreground, leaving the background just blurry enough that one has to strain and work a bit to see what might be there. I find that when the reader has to fill in the blanks, the story ends up being much more scary because we all place our own worst fears in the shadows.

Jeff, thanks for the comment on pacing. This story was a chance for me to work on writing something that had both a higher level of tension than anything I've ever written before and a faster pace (thus contributing to said tension). Here's hoping I at least came close to accomplishing both.

chong y l said...

Jim -- "hissing, clawing" pointers that those killers couldn't be human; i feel infected and am intrigued.

Anonymous said... i said, "poetic"

Jade L Blackwater said...

There's wonderful mystery in this piece which heightens the tension of being chased. My favorite description is "moon-washed openness".

Anonymous said...

You have a wonderful gift for description that makes this piece very visual. From the feeling of this, you could expand it either into a horror story or a thriller. It's a great ride where ever you decide to take it.

Anonymous said...

JLB, it's intriguing to me the different phrases that people latch onto as their favorites. I think this is one of my favorite parts of getting feedback.

Sandra, I'm actually thinking expanding it into a horror piece this next week for another writing contest. But we'll see. I also have two other stories in mind that might work, so this one might end waiting a little. Either way, I suspect that some more dark fiction is afoot.

Fran Piper said...

Great combination of thrill and atmosphere. I also love the mystery around the demons - we know just enough to find them terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Jim, great tension in the pursuit. The ending was perfect. Quiet and poetic. High marks for pacing and storytelling.