SHORT FICTION MONDAY – “The Last Remembering” by Cat Lumb

Last week I asked for some stories to post here on the bloggy-blog. Enjoy today’s story – THE LAST REMEMBERING. If you’d like to submit, leave a comment or email me at authorlady22@gmail.com

 

The Last Remembering

 She saw the headlights out of the corner of her eyes as she skittered across the road. Initially she didn’t think she would be hit, but then a sense of brightness overtook her and a searing pain radiated out from her hip across her entire body.

 For a second everything was black. She heard a thump. There might have been a crack of thunder, although it hadn’t started raining yet. She tried to open her eyes but her eyelids felt heavy. There was no distinction between having them open or closed anyway; everything appeared dark.

 Then she heard a voice. High pitched and shrieking, repeating the same phrases over and over again.

 “Ohmygod. Are you okay? Ohmygod. Please be okay.”

 She groaned and the sound became muffled. A slit of light appeared and then disappeared. She focused all her energy on opening her eyes and found herself looking up at the sky, a faded light seeping in from one corner of her vision and then a face. It was a pale, haggard face of a woman with a wide mouth and smeared lipstick. She felt an urge to mention this and tried to lift her hand to put it to her own mouth. Neither the words or hand materialised.

 She became aware of a trickling sensation on her leg,  like an army of ants crawling up toward her thigh. It intensified, going from pins and needles to burning fire in less than a minute. She tried to scream. The only sound she heard was a low moan.

 The face shifted out of view. Her vision was smudged grey, the sky mixing with the dim light. Voices began to merge. There must be more than one person.

 “…came out of nowhere. I called an ambulance….on it’s way.”

 “…Gordon has first aid training, I’ll get him…”

 “Do you know who she is?”

 Abruptly the light vanished. Everything was black. But after a moment her sight was restored and she saw a man above her. His eyes were a deep shade of brown. He looked concerned. Focusing on him made the suffering bearable.

 “Can you hear me?” he asked.

 She tried to nod her head. Pain burst into her brain like firecrackers.

 Yes, she mouthed. Though no sound accompanied it.

 Another voice, in the background: “Do you recognise her? Who is she?”

 The man studied her. “Can you tell me your name?”

 The only answer that made itself available was incorrect. She knew that. But her lips moulded themselves around it anyway.

 “I think she said Callum.”

 “That doesn’t make sense.”

 The man faded and she felt herself being tugged backward, despite knowing she was laying the road. That’s what had happened. She had been hit by the car. She was laying in the road.

 There was pressure around her waist, like someone was sitting on her. She attempted to look, but there was nothing. She thought she could see the night sky but the stars were twinkling too brightly.

 “No wallet or purse,” someone said.

 Were they trying to rob her? Well, they wouldn’t get much. All she had in her pocket was a five pound note. She didn’t even remember picking up her mobile phone.

 A quiet wailing interrupted her thoughts. She was sure she had something important to tell them. She needed to say something, something about the five pound note. But the wailing turned into a screeching and made her feel as though she was drowning. She couldn’t see anything now, not even when she was sure her eyes were open. There were bright patches, but they came and went like a blinking lighthouse inside her head.

 “Stay with us love, the paramedics are here now.”

 That was the man. She thought she could feel his hand on her face. It was cold. A dull ache pounded in her right side. She felt sick.

 As quickly as it came the nausea dissipated and she relaxed. The stars in the sky had gone now and the sun was coming up. She could feel the warmth on her skin and there was a gentle haze of light in front of her.

 She had only ducked out to get some milk. She remembered now. Her cup of tea would still be on the kitchen counter with the tea bag in it, an empty carton of milk beside it. She had only expected to be a minute. A quick run down the road to the shop on the corner. She’d have been back in less two minutes.

 The light enveloped her. It was bright but she became confused. It felt like a dark velvet caress even though it was a blinding white. She felt weightless now. A little bit dizzy. She wondered where the man had gone.

 Her last thought as she lay in the road was one of panic. The realisation came to her just as her mind succumbed to the pinprick of darkness in the overwhelming stark white.

 The baby. She’d left the baby in the house.

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Short Fiction Monday – An Excerpt

Miss me, babies? Good. Squirm. SQUIRM, I SAY.

It’s snowing outside. It’s mid-March, it’s snowing, and I’m fucking grumpy for reasons beyond shit weather. But, by circumstances outside my control, I have been given a few free minutes to toss another Short Fiction Monday post into the interwebz. Today, it’s an excerpt from my WIP, Reaper, which will hopefully be in second draft form sometime next month. Thanks to a new project with a character who haunts my dreams (damn you, Tabitha!) the process is slow going. In any case, ease off the reports and enjoy the fiction. It’s the only thing that makes Monday tolerable.

from REAPER…

The drop lasted less than five seconds, but when he looked up Oz saw nothing but blackness – like a starless sky – blackness so dark you thought of it only as nothingness. He landed in something wet that spilled over the sneakers Bard had given him and soaked his socks. It smelled like he’d landed in a backed up sewer.

A short distance in front of him, a faint, swinging light shone against the brick walls of – wherever this was. Oz assumed by falling into the crack in the earth he’d be entering Hell, but he’d yet to see any fire or politicians.

Walking on tip-toe to stay as far out of the water as possible, he inched toward the light.

The light, which turned out to be a lantern attached to the front of a small boat, cast a large enough glow that when he was close enough, Oz saw a group of seven or eight people huddled together behind a tall red-headed man in a grey mechanic’s jumpsuit. The man dribbled a blue yo-yo as he watched Oz approach. In the other hand, he held a small, tin bucket.

The name tag on his jumpsuit read, Arizona.

“You’re just in time. We’re about to shove off,” he said as he held out the bucket. “Drop your coins in here and we can be on our way.”

“You’re the boatman?”

“So you’ve heard of me? The name’s Arizona.”

“Oz.”

“Spectacular. If you’d be so kind as to drop your coins then, Oz?”

He jiggled the bucket inches in front of Oz’s face.

“I don’t have any coins,” Oz said.

“That’s impossible. Sure you do. Maybe you just stuck them in your pockets and forgot. Unless…”

Arizona tucked the yoyo into his pocket and poked Oz’s arm with an extended finger.

“Shit. You’re one of them aren’t you? Fuckin’ A. Doesn’t anyone trust a man to do his job anymore? Now they gotta send one of you folks down here to make sure I’m not dumping Bas over the side or something? You people think that just because I spend my time talking to the shadows and learning how to ‘walk the dog’ that I’m not competent enough to pilot a tiny excuse for a boat across an even tinier excuse for a river? Huh? That it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Because I can guaran-damn-tee that you won’t find anyone else to do this thankless job in this stink pit.”

Arizona moved closer to Oz with each accusation, finger still jabbing his arm.

“No, calm down. I’m not here about your job. I need to find someone. A kid. He was brought down here by – by accident.”

Arizona shook his head noticeably calmer now that he knew his performance wasn’t up for scrutiny.

“Sorry, Oz. Can’t help you.”

“It’s okay if you haven’t seen him. Just take me across and I’ll look for him myself.”

“Can’t do that either.”

“Why not?”

He jiggled the coin tin again.

“Seriously?”

“Sorry, kid.”

Arizona turned away from him, preparing to load the group of Bas huddled behind him – oblivious to the interaction with Oz – onto the boat.

“Wait!”

Oz cupped his hands and attempted to manifest a pair of coins for Arizona.

“Your tricks don’t work down here. It’s a whole new set of rules.”

He was right. No matter how many times he tried, the only thing Oz could blow into his hands was air.

“Please,” Oz said.

“I’m sorry. Really.”

He turned toward the Bas.

“Alright, now, everyone in.”

A plank formed between the boat and the stone step where they’d all gathered. They trudged across, one by one, until they were all seated. The boat was so small that they nearly sat on top of each other, packed together shoulder to shoulder. They didn’t seem to notice.

Arizona pushed the boat away from the step with the end of the stick that held the lantern, and as the plank sank into the water, as did Oz’s stomach and his hope of reaching Jamie.

No. It couldn’t be over. Not when he was so close. He knew Jamie was here. He felt it. He just had to find him, and in order to do that he needed to be in the boat. Fuck the coins. Fuck the rules. He’d broken them all so far. He wasn’t going to start playing fair now.

With little regard for what may or may not be lurking beneath the surface of the cloudy green river, Oz reared back and dove in.

It was like swimming through oil, slimy and clinging but not impossible to move through. Oz kept his eyes closed and pumped his arms in wide circles, hoping to hit the boat with his hand before his head.

Something cold and angry gripped his ankle and pulled him straight down.

In his panic, Oz opened his eyes and he felt as though they had been set on fire. Closing them again did nothing to cool the burn so he chanced a look down and saw –

Nothing.

A green and black abyss that went on forever. But the grip was there, cutting into his skin. Swirls of blood rose from his ankle as he was yanked further and further down. He looked up, lashed his arms and kicked the invisible attacker while looking for something, anything, to grip onto.

He was choking. The collar of his shirt had been ripped backward and dug into his jugular. He was going to die here. The oil-water rushed over his face. He’d lost all sense of direction. Up or down, it didn’t matter. His lungs were ready to give up.

Oz’s face broke the surface and something hard rammed him in the gut. The breath he held was expelled in a mucousy glop and he breathed in. And he breathed in again.

“Should’ve known you’d try something stupid like that.”

Oz gagged and was lifted by the armpits. His chin rested on the side of the boat.

“Nuh uh. You’re not puking in my boat.”

He couldn’t breathe again. His body was determined to purge everything from his system. Finally, it was over and his jaw ached. Soaked, Oz leaned backward against the side of the boat with his legs curled beneath him.

“Thanks,” Oz wheezed.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Arizona said.