Saturday, October 8, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: Brand New Monster

It has been an inordinately long time since I have posted anything, and for this, I am ashamed. Leave it to Mr. Wendig however, to light my fire like the booze soaked corpse of Jim Morrison holding a road flare while siphoning the gas out of a Ford Pinto. The result is my submission into the latest Flash Fiction Challenge: "Brand New Monster". I hope you enjoy it.



The Closet

Moonlight shines through the window of the nursery, illuminating the collection of stuffed animals along the window sill and providing enough light to make out walls adorned with pink wallpaper, cartoony little elephants dancing across its surface. The house is sleeping. A baby in her crib, her parents in their bedroom down the hall. 
 
On the wall opposite the crib is a door. The brass knob reflects an image of the room, bending the world around its edge, distorting reality. Slowly, the knob begins to turn. The door opens a crack, then stops. A few seconds later it swings fully open, the well oiled hinges silent. 
 
The creature unfolds itself from the closet like a contortionist emerging from a box. So tall its head almost brushes the ceiling, it stands there on stilt-like legs, its arms hanging low to the floor. Its long fingered hands taper to wicked black claws that reflect the moonlight streaming through the window, and its nostrils flare as it tests the night air. It crosses the room in two long strides, the wake of its passage stirring the yellow paper stars hanging from the ceiling. 
 
It stands over the crib, breathing in the scent of the child, listening to the beating of her heart, feeling the warmth of her body. It shudders in anticipation, its grotesque face splitting into a grin that reveals a mouth too full of needle-like teeth. 
 
It begins to reach into the crib when a voice says, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." 
 
The creature whips its head to the right, toward the source of the voice that interrupted its meal. A boy, maybe ten years old, is leaning against the wall next to the window. He has dark hair, with dark eyes to match, and is casually examining a stuffed penguin that looks much older than the rest of the animals in the window. 

The creature turns to face the boy. "I suppose you will try to stop me," its voice is a dry rasp, its words distorted by its mouthful of teeth. "But make no mistake boy, I will feed." 
 
"That's as may be, Sid," the boy says, placing the stuffed toy back among the others, his expression hard. "But not her. Not tonight." 
 
In an instant the boy flashes across the room, his body outlined in a silver shimmer. His open hand slams into the creature, driving it back from the infants crib. It howls in surprise and pain, its long fingered hands curling around its gut where the boy struck it, the skin blackened and blistered. 
 
"Last chance," says the dark haired boy, motioning toward the open closet. 
 
The creature glares at the boy separating it from the baby in the crib. Then it begins to laugh. A sound like snakes slithering over dry bones. 
 
"You will not stop me Guardian," the creature growls, contempt dripping from every syllable. "I've bested far stronger than you." 
 
The boy sets his feet, waiting for it to make a move, when a look of dismay crosses his young features. The moon outside is full, and by its light he can see the wound he dealt the creature only seconds before is already healing; the blisters receding and the skin mending itself as he watches. 
 
"Yes," it sneers, reading his expression, and lunges at the boy. 

It swings one schythe-like hand as it charges, but the boy is fast and ducks easily under the attack. He circles to its left, his hands and feet silver blurs as he delivers a flurry of strikes to the creature's legs and body, its wounds healing as fast as he can dish them out. 
 
He sees the thing's grin as it turns its head to follow him and realizes his mistake too late; by avoiding the initial attack, he is no longer between the baby and the monster. The creature's leg streaks out, almost too fast to see, and catches him high in the chest, lifting him off his feet and slamming him into the far wall of the nursery. 
 
Dazed, the boy watches as the laughing thing reaches into the crib and presses the point of one clawed finger against the baby's chest. At its touch the baby's body stiffens and her breathing stops. 
 
"No!" the boy screams. 

He scrambles to his feet and leaps onto the creature's back, wrapping his arms around the thing's throat. Its skin sears where he touches it, and he leans back hard, steering it toward the closet door. As the creature's hand comes away from the baby she wakes up, takes two hitching breaths, and begins to wail. 
 
The creature reaches over its head and sinks it's claws deep into the boy's shoulders and back. He screams as he is hauled into the air and slammed to the ground. 

His voice is silenced on impact; his silver light, extinguished. 
 
The creature stands over the unconscious boy for a moment, then turns greedily to the baby. It reaches into the crib and the child's cries are cut off. The monster leers down as the baby struggles to breathe, her face and hands turning blue, when a white radiance fills the room. 
 
The parents are in the doorway, the father's hand on the switch by the door, the mother pushing past, both called by the cries of their daughter. 

The creature stumbles backward, screeching in pain, its clawed hands shielding its eyes from the terrible light. The parents rush to the baby's crib, oblivious to the boy struggling to get up and the howling Thing reeling across the room. The boy, now on his feet, throws himself at the creature, wrapping his arms around its waist and driving it back through the black rectangle of the closet.

 The boy falls through darkness, a silver coin thrown down a well, the mother's screams chasing him.

 ***

The hospital's fluorescent lights shine down, scrubbing the hallway clean of shadows; sterilizing it. A man wearing a white coat leaves the room marked ICU #4 and closes the door after him. He leans heavily against the wall beside the door, removes his glasses, and rubs his eyes. 

"Are you all right doctor?" He looks up to find a nurse standing in front of him holding a chart. 
 
"Yes, I'm fine," he says, settling his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. "You know how it is. Sometimes these cases get to you." He tries to smile but cant, so he just looks down at his shoes instead. 
 
"I thought the little girl was going to be ok," says the nurse, genuine concern in her voice. 
 
"Oh, she is," he says quickly. "It was a close thing, but she's stable and her parents are with her now." He looks back at the door. "It's just that, I've seen those people before." 
 
He turns back to the nurse, at first unsure, but after a moment he begins, "It was about ten years ago. I had just started my residency here. They came in with the ambulance that brought their infant son. He had stopped breathing in the night. By the time the parents found him he had been without oxygen for too long, I did everything I could, but I wasn't able to save him. He was the first patient I ever lost." 
 
She hesitates, then reaches out and touches his arm. "But you saved this one," she says. She holds his gaze for a moment before walking away to deliver the chart she is carrying. 
 
The doctor turns back to the room and looks in the small window set into the door. The parents are holding their daughter between them, their heads pressed together. He watches as the husband brushes his wife's raven hair away from her forehead and kisses her there. 

Beside them, a little dark haired boy smiles.


6 comments:

  1. Very cool story! Really like the twist with the boy.
    Just trying to read all the stories in the flash fiction challenge. It's really interesting to see all the different ways people have interpreted this challenge.

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  2. Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I experimented with the tense this time around, and I wasn't sure how others would take it.

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  3. Fabulous. I love the twist at the hospital. Good job! Keep Writing!

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  4. ...and thus SIDS is explained.

    Great story. I really enjoyed it. I almost didn't read it after the opening paragraph, because I was already freaked out about what was going to happen to the baby. I'm glad I read on to the end and got the full story. I loved the casual way the boy was waiting in the bedroom, and the scene with the doctor at the end. Masterfully done.

    -- Jo Eberhardt

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  5. @whiskeychick: Thanks for the encouragement! I need all I can get.

    @thehappylogophile: You got it! I have shared this story with quite a few people in RL, and none have made the connection. I thought I had made it pretty obvious, but I guess those that have read it just didn't put it together. Either that, or they lied to me about reading it. ;)

    Thank you for the kind words. It really means a lot.

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