(Old) Monday Flash Fic: The Barrier

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a flash fic for the group, and at the last moment decided it would be a perfect entry for a contest if I could find a way to cut over two hundred words. 

Turns out I didn’t win a thing, and I asked for my rights back so I could post it here.  

First up is the original flash fic. This one comes in at 518 words.

 

11244911_1593117810936480_6477082239982570833_n“Why are we doing this again?” Nick asked Calvin.

The cat flicked his tail in annoyance. “Because that’s what the note told us to do.”

“Right.” Nick made a face. “The scrap of lined notebook paper someone slipped under our door.” Hunching his shoulders, he quoted, “‘Follow this map if you want to live.’ Talk about melodramatic.”

“It’s not as if we had a choice,” Calvin pointed out. “The water stopped working yesterday, and the only food we had left was moldy bread, uncooked pasta, and one can of tuna.” Calvin slid sideways to brush against Nick’s leg. “You didn’t forget that, did you?”

Nick patted his shirt pocket. “Got it right here.” There hadn’t been a chance in hell he’d forget the only edible thing in the apartment, and with the water and electricity off, it wasn’t like he could cook the pasta. He’d brought that too, though, just in case, pouring the elbow macaroni into a plastic bag and shoving it into the pocket of his jeans.

They’d been walking a while and hadn’t seen anyone else. It was eerie. Where had all the people gone?

It was so quiet, his ears rang. He hadn’t heard a bird in how long? Weeks, maybe months. Wind. That he still heard. Today, it was pretty quiet though. Just enough to ruffle his hair and dry the sweat on his forehead.

Calvin walked silently beside him, his paws making no sound on the dirt path which differed from their surroundings in that it looked man-made. Someone had created this path, laid it out in a straight line leading… where? He couldn’t see anything ahead except a bank of clouds on the horizon, and behind that, the rising sun.

After a few hours, thirst set in. His mouth and throat were so dry, he could no longer swallow. He wasn’t sweating anymore, either. Bad sign. If he was suffering, Calvin must be, too.

Around mid-afternoon,  something sparkled in the distance. Spurred on by seeing the first thing that looked different in a barren landscape, they picked up the pace. Half an hour of hard walking brought them to the foot of what looked like a wall of electricity across the path. It was about twelve feet high and eight wide, and when Nick walked around it, he saw it was only an inch thick. The path continued endlessly on on the other side.

Nick looked at Calvin, who had calmly sat and was grooming one paw. “Now what?”

“We walk into it,” Calvin said.

“Why?”

“What else is there to do out here?”

They stared at the curtain of glittering light for long moments until Nick finally said, “On the count of three, okay?”

Calvin stood, tail nervously flicking back and forth. “One….”

“… two,” Nick said.

“Three,” they said together, and bravely strode through the barrier.

It felt like something crawled all over Nick, inside and out, and he closed his eyes and shuddered at the sensation but kept moving. When he felt normal again, he stopped and opened his eyes.

“Oh,” he said. “This is where all the people went.”

______

Here is the revamped version I submitted for the contest. It runs 298 words. 

 

Nick and Calvin had been following the path in the desert a while and hadn’t seen anyone else. It was eerie. Where had all the people gone?

“Why are we doing this again?” Nick asked.

Calvin shrugged. “Because that’s what the note told us to do.”

Nick snorted. “A scrap of lined notebook paper someone slipped under our door.” He quoted, “‘Follow this map if you want to live.’ Talk about melodramatic.”

It’s not as if we had a choice,” Calvin pointed out. “The water stopped working yesterday, and the only food we had left was uncooked pasta and a can of tuna.”

After a few hours, thirst set in. Nick wasn’t sweating anymore, either. Bad sign. Nick clasped Calvin’s hand.

Around mid-afternoon, something sparkled in the distance. Spurred on by seeing the first thing that looked different in the barren landscape, they picked up the pace until they stood before what looked like a wall of electricity across the path. It was about twelve feet high, eight wide, and when Nick walked around it, he saw it was only an inch thick.

Nick looked at Calvin, who was thoughtfully chewing a nail. “Now what?”

“We walk into it,” Calvin said.

“Why?”

“What else is there to do out here?”

They stared at the curtain of glittering light for long moments until Nick finally said, “On the count of three, okay?”

Calvin nodded, and they joined hands again. “One….”

“… two,” Nick said.

“Three,” they said together and bravely strode through the barrier.

It felt like something crawled all over Nick, inside and out, and he closed his eyes and shuddered at the sensation but kept moving. When he felt normal again, he stopped and opened his eyes.

“Oh,” he said. “This is where all the people went.”

_____

Let know which version you like best and why. 🙂

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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22 Responses to (Old) Monday Flash Fic: The Barrier

  1. Helena Stone says:

    I think I like the first one (original) best. I can’t say I missed the added detail from the shorter version but I preferred having it available. Of course, the big issue with both versions is that now I want to know WHERE exactly all the people went 😉

    I’m sorry you didn’t win. I didn’t see any of the other stories so I’ve no idea whether it was ‘fair’ or not. The problem with competitions (as far as I can tell) is that they’re so very subjective. So it all depends on what those judging prefer, which may or may not match the preferences of others.

  2. Allison says:

    I like the first version because I was surprised when Calvin spoke (not sure why since he’s in the picture) but this, “Calvin walked silently beside him, his paws making no sound …” made me smile

  3. Patricia says:

    The longer version was warmer, I got to know the characters. And my curiosity is piqued. What next?

  4. Lindsaysf says:

    Ah, I missed that Calvin wasn’t necessarily a kitty in the 2nd. Guess i carried it with me. The 2nd is good, the first lets me hang out with the characters a bit more. And includes Calvin’s paws. 🙂

  5. suze294 says:

    Also a first story – Calvin being a talking cat just added something extra – and who knows when that tin of tuna will come in useful!

  6. Ka says:

    the first one was like eating a fabulous sandwich and wanting more when you’ve finished, but still satisfied with what you have had so far. The 2nd one was like having a bite out of a fabulous sandwich and someone taking the rest away….. I was left thinking ” nooo…what?”

  7. Jaycee Edward says:

    I like the first one best because, duh…talking cat.

  8. diannegray says:

    I liked the first one. Entering stories into competitions is hit and miss. I remember entering one of my short stories into a local competition (about 300 entrants) and it didn’t come anywhere. I then entered it into a national competition (about 15,000 entrants) and it won. Go figure. The judging process is very subjective. Keep up the great work xxx

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