The Amazing Sentence

My entry to this week’s Terribleminds Flashfiction Challenge, reposted here for archival purposes. It was to be the most amazing sentence one could come up with to spark someone into doing the front end and the back end of the story. I can’t attest to the amazingness of my sentence, but I sure wanna know what happened before and what’s going to happen after.

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The stars are falling, falling all around them, so she guesses now is the time to find out whether the clerics of the temple are right and their world will be reborn from the ashes – or perish forever, like it never even was.

The inevitable…

…real life strikes. I was very determined to finish the Flash Fic challenge with the end of a story this week, but then due to a sick colleague one six-day workweek turned into two, turned into probably three and I haven’t even had the chance to read all the wonderful stories offered for continuation, much less work on any.
But I will finish the Challenge in my own time (it’s not a contest after all) because I feel this story deserves a (temporary) end. Cross your fingers for me this weekend.

Clank II

So… coming in just under the wire, my second entry to the Terribleminds Flash Fiction challenges, continuing a tale first posted by Clay Ashby. It’s entirely not as well thought out or revised as I would have liked, but with a phone call on Monday, my entire week off turned into an entire work week, so plans had to be adjusted accordingly. Anyway, here is the original story with my own continuation following.

Clank by Clay Ashby

My eyes opened with a metallic clatter. A single dim lamp reflected its yellow hue on the ceiling above. Instinctually I was able to sit up and balance myself on the table. At least I think it was instinct because I certainly don’t remember ever doing it before. My legs dangled over the edge and my feet didn’t quite touch the floor. The thought of lifting myself off the table and falling, even just that little bit, worried me, but I did it. My feet clanked on the rusty floor as I stumbled, trying to find my balance. With my feet spread wide I was able to stabilize, so I lifted my head to look around.

Large gears turned inside the walls, visible through crumbled sheets of wood and iron. My head began whistle, beginning at a high pitch and increasing until it was nearly impossible to hear. The sound was terrifying and at first quite annoying, but the mild vibration was soothing, and it seemed to help me keep my balance. I took my first step, a step that was a little too big, but my foot landed on the floor and held firm. The vibration inside my head was helping me. I was sure of it, so I took several more steps. No problem at all! The vibration in my head made it almost easy.

There was only one exit from the room, a dark hallway. I decided to go. I didn’t really have any other choice. Every step I took was loud. It made me uncomfortable, like I was being watched. I tried to step softly, but it was no use. Metal contacting metal simply could not be made quiet. The hallway continued on without ending and my deliberate steps made progress slow. The glow of lamps from the room behind me began to fade. With every step it faded more. I wasn’t sure how much further I could go, so I stopped, unsure if another step forward would be wise. I was able to turn my head all the way around and look at where I had come from, a faint yellow spot now. There didn’t seem to be any reason to return, except fear. The room was vacant and square, with nothing useful inside. My only option was to move onward into the darkness.

I took only one more step, no clank. Imagine if I had turned back at that moment. I was only one step away from a new type of ground, but I would have never known it. With my arms slowly flailing, in search of obstacles, I continued into the pitch black. Still no clank from my feet. The silence combined with the dark made me feel like I was walking into nothingness, but that eerie feeling was certainly better than the creepy clank from before. At least I felt hidden now.

When my face met a solid steel door I thought I had finally made it to the end. I leaned into it and pushed. The metal moaned from stress and a few rivets popped, but it gave way easily enough. Unfortunately this door, my supposed salvation, revealed almost certain doom.

Clank II

The light outside the door was stark and blinding after the complete darkness of the corridor. But even after some time to adjust, it lost little of its brightness, illuminating a landscape profoundly different from the one I had first found myself in.

In front of me, a thick and strange jungle opened up, trees so tall I couldn’t make out their crowns, their bark covered with lichen and moss, some of which glowed with a dazzling fluorescence. The ground was moist grasses and mud, patches of impenetrable mist wafting between the tree trunks. I stood there, transfixed by the vast marvels unfolding before me, but the whirr in my head urged me on despite the fact that I had no way of knowing which dangers awaited me going forward. It seemed, however, that my feet had stood idle long enough and my first step outside was not happening entirely out of my own volition. The earthy ground sunk beneath my heavy steps as I picked my way forward into the forest, sometimes causing little puffs of acrid gas and steam to rise around my feet.

At first, I figured I was making good progress, the gaping hole of the steel door vanishing behind me among the vegetation. But the ground turned into a watery sludge under my feet and soon it became a squeaking effort to even move them out of the mire at all. By the time I had to admit that going further might not be at all advisable, I found myself in a rapidly expanding bog, spattered up to the armpits with little drops of mud and no trunks or roots anywhere near enough to grasp onto. With great trepidation, I realized that not only was it impossible to move my lower joints up and onward, but I was sinking into the ground and every tiny movement accelerated my decent.

Now, one might think that finding myself slowly being swallowed whole with no way to escape the quagmire would be enough to stall my breath with paralyzing fear. However, the understandable apprehension about the impending loss of life and limb faded into the background when, for that very reason, my mind finally became aware of a number of facts that had been there the whole time, but failed to puzzle me until now. The metallic clank of my feet on the ground, the turning of my head all the way around, the squeaking in my joints, the breath that should be wheezing in my lungs from the panic and that just remained a rigid, muted ticking sound. It all was thrown into stark contrast as I watched my steel fingers weave and grasp and slowly sink under the muddy surface with the feeling that all of this was very, very wrong. And so, instead of wondering what fate might await me once I was fully submerged, only one thought kept on rattling around, echoing in the empty chamber of my head.

What the hell has HAPPENED to me?

Revenant

The door crashes against the rough stone wall with a loud crack when Stepjan stumbles into the rank, dark room. He manages to close it with a much more delicate sound before leaning against it and closing the latch. He staggers down the narrow steps with a pained groan, while he presses his free hand against his side where blood is seeping through his shirt. It’s tempting to just drop his bow and quiver where he stands, but if they catch him without anything to defend himself, he’s done.

The air smells stale and musty, filled with a very particular scent that tells him without actually needing to see his surroundings to know he’s in a tomb of some kind.
“Just my bloody luck, I guess.”
Stepjan slings his bow on his shoulder and strikes a match one-handed even though that is probably a bad idea. The flickering light reveals that this isn’t a cushy last resting place for nobility, but rather more of a root cellar stacked to the top with coffins in various stages of dilapidation. The bodies inside wear matching grimaces of putrid rigor and faded red soldier’s uniforms, their dust-crusted brass buttons gleaming in the low light. He’s not unfamiliar with violent death, but the grisly scene still sends shivers down his spine. Stepjan lurches forward all of two steps before the match burns out on his thumb and his curses into the dark.

The matter of blood loss becomes more pressing in seconds though. He pitches forward, just barely avoids falling onto his injured side and ends up looking right into the sightless eyes of a corpse, whose face is surrounded by wisps of black hair that cling to the papery skin, before he loses consciousness. When Stepjan opens his eyes again, he hopes that he wasn’t out for more than a couple of minutes, but the steady drip of blood into a puddle on the floor tells a different story. He fumbles around for another match. It’s not going to do much, but he’ll be damned if he dies here in the dark with a bunch of half-mummified red coats.

The flame springs to life, then steadies, before leaning to the side as if touched by a breeze. Stepjan turns his head, freezes – the eyes he meets are no longer bulbous and grey, but bright amber, lips parted by an icy breath. They both stay motionless for a beat, but when it – she – draws back a fist to smash through the brittle wood of her coffin, he can’t stifle a scream. While he’s still reeling, the previously dead woman slithers out through the hole, and his luck turns for the worse when yells rise outside, and something heavy starts battering against the door. She crouches over him, flicks her eyes up to where the latch is one good hit away from breaking and hisses:
“What’s your name?”
“S-Stepjan.”
She nods and hauls him up with unnatural strength.
“I’m Valerie. Now run!”