Thursday, July 13, 2017

Short Story "There Is No Exit"

Hello and welcome back to my blog. I put the short story challenge on the back burner for a little bit to work on other things, but I have missed it terribly. 

I'm back this week to contribute my story for the Flash Fiction Challenge over at Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds Blog

This week's challenge was from a dream he had where one phrase kept appearing: There is no exit. 

He writes:
I thought it would make a very good flash fiction challenge.
So, incorporate that phrase —
“There is no exit”
— into the story. Either as a title, a line of dialogue, a theme, whatever.
Go forth and tell the story.
Length: ~1000 words

Here is this week's short story. It is actually a little bit of a back story for another project I'm working on and this prompt helped me to work it out. I came in at 995 words. Helpful comments are appreciated, I'm still learning. Thank you. 

“There Is No Exit”

By Michelle Baillargeon

            Aggie sat at the kitchen table and sipped her glass of diet cola while keeping one eye on the clock. Her heart was beating a little faster than normal, but it was not from the caffeine. He’s going to be here any minute, but I think I’m ready this time.


Even though she’d already done it half a dozen times, she checked to make sure her cell phone was within arms-reach. She made another silent wish (how many was that now?) that Rider had been able to be here with her. But, since her friend, a traveling nurse, was several states away at the moment, it was fruitless. They had talked about what to do today over the phone, but it would have been more reassuring to have him here with her. While she waited, she reviewed their plan.

The sound of a thud traveled to her from the hallway, mentally she placed it at the bottom of the stairs. She nodded her head yes absentmindedly and waited. Small hairs on the back of her neck prickled, but she didn’t move from her chair. So far, it was the same as before, he’d be in the kitchen soon enough.

She heard a man’s voice, speaking low at first. Just one word, repeated. The man’s voice, filled with shock and disbelief, wafted in to the kitchen softly. “Freddie?”  

The voice then grew louder and angry, the disbelief gone, “Freddie!”

Aggie flinched in spite of herself. She attempted to calm her nerves by taking a deep breath, as quickly as she could, and then blew it out. She reminded herself she had a plan this time, that he couldn’t really hurt her; but her nerves were still a mess.

Aggie could hear shuffling sounds in between the angry shouts, the shuffling told her he’d been getting up from his fall down the stairs and was assessing himself. In no time at all, the shuffling noises changed to footsteps: heavy, running footsteps. They were headed her way.

            Her pulse quickened and fear tried to push its way through, but she held her ground. This was her house now, and he had to go. Courage, girl, you know what to do.  

            “Fred…!” The shouting man appeared in the doorway of the kitchen and came to an abrupt stop at seeing Aggie. He was out of breath, his clothes disheveled, an ugly depression in his right temple was gushing blood; it streamed down the side of his face and over a banged up eye.

            “Where the hell is Freddie and who the hell are you?”

            Aggie put her hands up in front of her in a “stop” motion. “My name is Aggie, this is my house now. Freddie has been gone for a long time.”
            He shook his head back and forth, not believing any of it. Fueled by his anger and the fall down the stairs, he approached the table and shook a clenched fist at Aggie “This is my house and I want you out!”

            Aggie tried to appear calm, she looked him in the eyes as she spoke, “Sir, I understand your confusion, give me a moment to explain.”

            He banged a bruised fist on the table, leaving a small, bloody smudge on her table cloth. “Get out of my house!” he shouted in her direction. Aggie followed his hand as it hit the table and winced. His pinky finger was bent at an unnatural angle. She hadn’t noticed that before.

She shook it off and tried to get back on plan. Breathe, Aggie, Breathe, you can do it. She kept one hand raised in front of her, gesturing “one moment” at him. It was clear he didn’t want to be calmed down, but he did pause.  

“Sir, Freddie has been gone for an awfully long time. Actually, so have you.” The man cocked his head to the right, she had his attention for the moment. More blood dripped from the depression on his head and pooled on the table cloth. Aggie’s stomach flipped at the close-up view of his open wound. She looked away (get back on track, girl!) and reached for her cell phone, “can I show you something that might help you?”

Not waiting for a response, she unlocked her cell phone and queued up video she’d been saving. She turned the screen to face him and hit play. As he watched the video, she spoke as soothingly as she could manage. “I’ve been here for six months, and once a month, you show up. Every visit is the same: you fall down the stairs, pick yourself up, and run into the kitchen looking for Freddie. You shout at me to leave your house, bang my table a few times, and then you – well – you disappear until the next time.”

He looked up at Aggie once the video stopped playing, confusion staring back at her from his one good eye. She pressed play again. The video showed a duplicate of this morning’s events. “I took this video of you on your last visit. You have to understand that there’s nothing here for you anymore. Freddie is no longer here, she’s been gone for a long time. You passed away many years ago. The fall cracked your skull and you didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.”

The man reached up with his broken hand and gingerly touched his temple as Aggie continued. “There is no relief for you if you stay here, no exit. This will go on and on, repeating every month. Wouldn’t you like to rest?”

He looked at Aggie, taking it all in; fist unclenched and shoulders sagging against the weight of understanding. She played the video again and he watched it play through completely once more. When it finished he stood back from the table, upright and sure of himself, and nodded to Aggie.

“I would,” he said.

Aggie watched as the man disappeared before her.


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