This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/09/05/flash-fiction-challenge-the-first-half-of-a-story-only/ is to write the first 500 words of a 1000 word story and post it on our page. Hopefully someone else will read the 1st half, be prompted and write the 2nd half of the story. So this week, I’ll post my 1st half and see if anyone gets an idea of how to finish it. I called it Mystery at the Fair.
I read some of the posts from people who had already answered the challenge and found one that someone else created and finished it for him. You can see it below my story start. I’m calling it Close Call.
If no one picks up on my story, I’ll finish it for next week. If someone does finish it, I’ll post it here with a link to their blog.
Mystery at the Fair
Sweat rolled down the side of Jean Hays’ face, her short graying brown hair stuck to her forehead. The sun beat down out of a cornflower blue sky while end of the monsoon season thunderheads built up into towering blinding white and ominous portents of future rain. Rain every year for the fair, she thought as she trudged to the storage container where the plastic tubs of left over ribbons, banners and other fair paraphernalia resided the rest of the year. She wiped her face and hoped the units were unlocked. The Fair Board President, Arris Van Horn wasn’t answering his phone. He should have them open by now.
She wiped the sweat from her face and lightly touched the metal handles of the shipping container. The front of the unit had been in the sun all day but while it was hot to the touch, she could grab the lever and pull it up. Must be ninety degrees out here. She swung the door open with relief that she wouldn’t have to trudge all over the fairgrounds looking for Arris and stepped inside. It was dark just a few feet inside the metal box and at least a hundred and twenty degrees. Sweat began dripping in earnest. Smells like mice in here, hope they haven’t gotten into the tubs, she thought.
Winding her way past safety cones, stacked tables, buckets of rope, steel cable and broken metal chairs, she stepped over a pile of rebar to reach her stack of tubs. One, two, three, four, she counted, where’s the fifth tub? The heat was giving her a headache. Maybe it’s farther to the back. A pile of cardboard boxes labeled, Mud Run, blocked her way. The storage container held material for several events that occurred on the fairgrounds during the year. Jean moved the three boxes behind her and stepped over a pile of rusting chain. Wish I’d brought a flashlight, she thought. It’s dark back here.
Squinting, she saw the medium blue tub four feet away on top of another stack of bins. There you are. She wiped her face again and held her breath. The smell of dead things was over whelming. I hope nothing crawled into my bin. The ribbons will be ruined. She picked her way past boxes, rusting metal things she couldn’t identify and a broken ladder. She pulled the tilted bin toward her and the pile of bins it was on fell over. Her bin slid to the floor, taking part of her thumbnail with it. “Owww,” she cried as she jerked her hand away. In front of her, the two doors of a metal cabinet creaked open and a desiccated human body fell out on top of her bin. She shrieked and scrambled outside.
She stared, panting, at the open door of the container then dialed 911. “This is Jean Hays. I’m the VP of Exhibits for the fair. I just found a dead body in the storage container on the fairgrounds.”
(Note: 1st half of the story is separated from my final half by a line.)
First half is by Caitlin McColl, Under A Star Lit Sky, http://underastarlitsky.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/the-first-500/ No Title: Part of Chuck Wendig 500 Word Story Start Challenge
Do you know what it feels like when you are about to die? Everything slows down and then stops. All the life, all the colours drain out of everything. It’s like you’re trying to conserve every last bit of energy into just keeping yourself alive, to keep your heart pumping and your mind thinking. You go into survival mode: sounds disappear until all you hear is your heart and your breath as loud as a hurricane in your ears.
Trust me, I know. I’ve been almost dead more times than I have fingers and toes. And I don’t recommend it. It’s not as if I try to get into situations that get me almost dead, it’s just… I guess you could say it’s my hobb-.
I hear a familiar click right next to my left ear; the small sound that has such a huge meaning – the sound of a gun’s safety being pulled back. Slowly, calmly, I put down my pen. Without turning my head, I begin to stand from the Adirondack chair where I’d been enjoying a rare peaceful morning on my deck devoid of any life – I do not have a green thumb – above the Pacific.
“Don’t move,” the voice says quiet but firm. At first I’m surprised. It’s not any voice I was expecting, going through my mental Rolodex of the long list of people who want me dead.
I try not to sound like I’m on the verge of a laugh. I swallow once, hoping to quash the offending sound, and try to sound serious and even as I stop in a squat, half sitting, half standing.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask, plainly, removing all traces of amusement from my voice.
The voice behind me makes an exasperated noise. “Okay, you can move, but only do what I say.”
I try to suppress a smile, grateful my face is turned away from my captor. She sounds unsure, nervous. I don’t recognize her voice – I’m usually good with recognizing who it is that wants to hurt me.
“Okay,” I say agreeably. “Can I at least stand up?”
There is a pause. I can almost sense eyes being rolled. “Yes.”
I straighten slowly. “Now what?”
Another pause, longer this time. “Take us to the library.”
Us? A shiver races down my spine. I mentally shake my head. I hadn’t been on alert. I’d been too busy writing.
“The library?” I repeat, confused.
“Your library,” the woman says, irritation and impatience tingeing her words.
“That’s not important. All you need to know is you have a gun to your head.”
I laugh, short and sharp. “That’s nothing new to me.”
I hear the another small click that causes the hair on my arms to rise involuntarily and I raise my hands defensively. “Okay, okay,” I say, leading the way into the kitchen and down the hall.
The double doors to the library already stand open. I stop and gesture inside. “Ladies first.”
“Don’t be stupid,” she snarled.
I shrugged and stepped through the door to the middle of the room.
Hands still in the air, I did. She was about five foot six, green-eyed and I didn’t recognize her. I certainly would have remembered that shoulder-length auburn hair and creamy complexion. “I’m afraid we haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Al Teiness.” I started to lower my hands.
“Keep them in the air.” She waved the revolver at me.
“Of course.” I raised them again.
“I know who you are. You’re the one that killed my sister.”
I’ve been known to tie one on but I don’t remember ever blacking out. Certainly don’t remember killing anyone. “You must have me confused with someone else.”
“Two years ago,” she spat out, tears forming in those lovely green eyes. “At the MyCon for mystery writers, in Phoenix. She was so excited, finally getting to meet her favorite author.” She studied my face. “You don’t remember, do you?” She pointed the gun at me in sharp jabs. “Unbelievable.”
“Miss, really, I didn’t kill your sister. I’m so sorry for your loss. What was her name?” I had to convince this woman not to kill me.
She dashed away the tears in her eyes. “Amanda, my height, blonde, blue-eyes. She had met you at the book-signing and you invited her for drinks afterward. She texted me. You were going to meet at the hotel bar.”
I thought furiously. So many people come to the book-signing sessions. I was sick that day, head-ache and fever but the fans come a long way and spend a lot of money so I sat through the whole signing session, smiling and greeting my readers. “Miss, I invite a lot of my fans for drinks at the bar. Usually I go and spend some time with them but I was sick that day. I didn’t go to the bar; I was in my room, puking my guts out with the flu.”
The gun wavered as she stared at me. Her face twisted in anger. “You’re a liar. You’re just trying to get away with it.”
“No, Miss,” I stepped toward her to explain.
She took two steps back, “Stop!”
I stuck my hands back in the air. “I had to call the hotel to send a doctor. I’m not sure how you’d check that but it’s the truth. I missed the rest of the conference.” I could see the look of doubt cross her face. She swallowed.
“It’s taken me two years to track you down. You didn’t go to the bar?”
I shook my head.
The gun wavered. “You were really sick?”
The gun sank toward the floor. “I’m so sorry.” She whirled around and fled out through the kitchen to the deck and was gone.
I dropped my hands and staggered to the ottoman where I collapsed, heart pounding. I resolved never to invite fans for drinks again.
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