October Flash Fiction Winner
Staff Writer: Stefanie Ebo
4 Nov. 2016
Writer Michael Robinson is the winner of our October Halloween-themed flash fiction contest. We were curious to find out what inspired him to write this piece and how he developed his story.
“In terms of inspiration, I have Thomas Ligotti and H. P. Lovecraft to thank for the horror elements. What Ligotti says, in essence, is that to write a successful horror story, one has to establish “rules” for reality (in the story) and then violate the rules. In terms of the slice of life elements when Noah is waking up in the morning, I drew from a few different sources. Much of it was through my own daily routine, which, while it does not mimic Noah’s, shares a great deal in common in its repetitive nature.”
This story is definitely worth the read. Robinson did a wonderful job incorporating a rather ominous element into the story which ties it all together. It makes you wonder if something scary is going to all of a sudden pop out of a very typical setting. Thank you again Michael for submitting your work and we hope everyone enjoys it as much as we did!
--- The Wrong Side ---
Noah Lowry woke up on the wrong side of the bed. As he opened his eyes, he found himself facing the wall. Typically when Noah awoke, he would examine the objects scattered throughout his room. His eyes were free to drift from poster, to painting, to his dog sleeping blissfully on the ground (if she had not crawled into his bed during the night). He especially liked it when he woke up looking at his dresser. Its neat symmetry provided a perfect beginning to the day. Today however, he was not so lucky. This was an ill omen.
"Oh well," he muttered. In general, he found it better to take what you can get. His mind fluttered to his ex-girlfriend, then to his brother overseas as he staggered towards the kitchen to prepare his morning coffee. This was to be another day-as-usual. Then Noah remembered his mode of waking up. He would not be lulled into a false sense of security. Today could fly off the rails at any moment.
The slow drip of the coffee was hypnotizing. His thoughts once again began to drift. Noah's mind returned to Bryan on patrol in some godforsaken part of Afghanistan, in an unfriendly land, surrounded by people who wanted to kill him. He thought of Heather smiling in her Facebook profile picture with her new boyfriend Jack. Noah really hated Jack.
Before Noah sipped his steaming coffee, he stirred it counterclockwise three times to counteract the omen in his bedroom. "It could always be worse. I guess." He resolved to not let this morning get in the way of properly living today.
The coffee obliterated all traces of sleep from his mind. Making his way back to his room, he began to get dressed. As Noah pulled on his jeans he wondered whether he should wear his blue and grey striped t-shirt or the Superman shirt he cherished. Today, he was feeling Superman. Its bold red and yellow S on a solid blue background was sure to ward away any malevolence from the day's inauspicious beginning. As he tied the laces of his Converse, he hoped he would once again see that blonde girl on the bus to work.
Noah quickly walked down the steps of his apartment complex and made his way towards the bus stop. He had a rapid pace. It was one of the things that Heather hated about him. Frequently, he had ended up ahead of her whenever they went walking. As he walked, Noah wondered for the umpteenth time if that was the reason she broke up with him.
He found the crisp fall air invigorating. He smiled as the chilled air cooled the skin of his face. Abruptly, Noah began to suspect that he was being followed. It was an acute feeling, causing him to turn suddenly and check his surroundings. Nothing was there. He took a few more steps and the sensation heightened. He continued glancing around nervously, but could find no reason for his suspicion. A cool breeze brushed the nape of his neck, sending shivers down his spine.
"Not funny asshole!" He remarked, surprised, as he quickened his already rapid pace. The wind picked up and rustled the leaves. The powerful gusts lifted the fallen, brown leaves, scattered along the road and sidewalk, and swirled them around in an ominous pattern in the street ahead. Noah swore he could see a figure behind the clouds of leaves.
"Who's there?" He shouted at the bizarrely empty street. The wind ushered in clouds to snuff out the hazy light of the early morning sun. In the unnaturally darkened street, Noah saw movement. There was a figure in the leaves. Noah had no doubts now. Its yellow eyes glowed and it beckoned him come closer. It didn't seem to Noah this was a good idea. Anyway, movement was impossible as he had lost the power of locomotion. All Noah could do was to stare stupefied at the apparition. The swirling leaves formed a face. Its voice whistled and mouldered in the morning air. It whispered to him of aeons past. It pined for an ancient time when it had been worshipped. A time when Noah's ancestors had strode across the earth shod with the hides of the hunted and it had fed and fed and fed.
"Little one, you shall be my herald. You shall serve as reminder that all is as shadow on the wall before me. I am the sun, here to banish that which is shadow. I am Truthbringer. I am Face in the Mud. I am the One Who Watches. I am That Which is Dead and Born Again. I have come a thousand times before and I shall come a thousand times more." The voice rasped as though being forced through thousands of decomposing windpipes, a symphony of decay.
"Ye...es..." Noah stammered.
He was in the middle of the street, only a few steps from abomination. The shroud of leaves opened its mouth to swallow Noah in inky blackness. He found himself at an ancient ritual. Men and women howled before a pair of full moons and unfamiliar constellations. They lashed a struggling prisoner to the altar. An obsidian blade rose and fell. Red lifeblood stained the granite. Rivulets ran down the sides of the stone coalescing into a pool. A deformed face appeared in the bloodied mud. It's mouth opened, a gory, gaping maw. It shrieked horribly, then emitted a loud "HONK!!!"
The honking horn and screeching tires pulled Noah from the dreamworld. The car hit his left leg, spinning him to the side with a sickening crack. He was sure it was broken. As Noah lay huddled on the pavement, a woman emerged from the driver's side. It was the girl from the bus.
She ran over to him. "Oh fuckfuckfuckfuck."
Noah grimaced and managed "It's ok. I'm Noah." As he lost consciousness, he noticed his sneakers were muddy.