This is my entry for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Contest over at TERRIBLEMINDS.
Here are the details of the contest:
Today we’re talking about death.
The Big “D.”
Demise. Dirt-Nap. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
You have 1000 words to write a short story that prominently features death. What that means is up to you, of course. And genre is also in your court.
But a death — or the concept of death, or an exploration of death — must be front and center.
And here is my little piece:
WHEN SHADOWS CALL
Word Count: 999
The body on the floor shook uncontrollably; the muscles tightening and releasing with each convulsion. Foamy spittle oozed out of the girl’s slack mouth. Her eyelids fluttered rapidly as each spasm tore through her. Urine pooled on the floor around her as her body released everything stored inside of it.
Landry had never seen anyone die before. She watched the chaos ensue as her friends reacted to the death unfolding in front of them. Susan was slapping the face of the girl on the floor, tears streaking her cheeks. Large sobs were wracking Bobby, his body trembling with each one. Ronin was passed out on the bed, the butt of a cigarette still smoldering in his yellowed fingers.
Susan cried out, shaking the shoulders of the girl on the floor, “Wake up! Wake up!”
Tearing her eyes away from the turmoil in front of her, Landry looked around the dirty hotel room. Dark shadows lined the floor of the room. She tried to ignore them, but she knew they were growing, spreading. Mold spots littered the ceiling and a few of the walls, as if someone had broken a black pen and sprayed the ink onto the interior of the room. The avocado green and brown floral wallpaper looked like it hadn’t been changed since it had first been installed – in an era way before Landry’s time. A light rectangle on the wall indicated the place where a picture used to hang, protecting that spot from years of tobacco smoke and god only knows what else. Rust stains crept down from one corner of the ceiling, like spindly fingers making their way into the room.
Stains discolored the pillow next to Ronin’s open mouth.
Landry wondered why the disgusting hotel room hadn’t bothered her before.
Bobby ran to the phone on the nightstand and tried to call for help. Landry’s attention was snapped back to her friends as she focused on Bobby’s trembling hands. It took him three times to get the short number combination correct through the shaking of his fingers.
“No! Bobby, stop! What are you doing!?” Susan shrieked the words, terror distorting her once-pretty face. “You can’t call 911!”
Bobby held the phone suspended in midair. Landry could vaguely hear the nasally voice of the operator on the other end of the line.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
Bobby’s face slackened as he tried to make sense of Susan’s words. His eyes darted from Susan’s face, to the heroine on the small dining table, to the body of his friend on the floor, and back to the telephone gripped tightly in his hands.
“But she’s dying, Susan.” His voice was a mere whisper.
“No, no, no! We can save her! Just help me get her into the tub. The cold water will shock her system! Ronin! Goddammit Ronin, wake up!”
Bobby replaced the receiver. He stood with his back to Susan; purposely turned away from the tragedy unfolding behind him. Landry watched as his shoulders slumped, and he accepted defeat. She knew the cops would come to the hotel. She knew you couldn’t just hang up on 911 and hope they’d ignore the phone call. But she was obviously the only one thinking clearly.
She turned and looked out onto the twinkling lights of the Sunset strip, wishing again that she, Bobby and Susan had stayed in Oklahoma. Los Angeles wasn’t what they’d imagined at all.
The City of Angels was claiming one more.
She glanced over to the shadows lining the walls of the room. They were growing. Soon, she knew, she’d be unable to ignore them.
“Bobby! Snap out of it!” Susan’s voice was shrill, panicked.
Bobby turned around and slowly walked the short distance to where Susan huddled over the body on the floor. A painful sob escaped his lips as he leaned down to put his arms under the legs of his friend. The two of them heaved, burdened with the dead weight of the body.
Nothing. Just light snores from a man who would be knocked out for at least a few more hours. Landry wondered what he’d think when he came to. Wondered if he would regret anything. Looking at him now, she couldn’t even see what had so drawn her to him all those weeks ago. He wasn’t a real rock star, just a guy with a guitar and an attitude problem. But she’d been unable to stay away.
“The voice of an angel,” he’d said to her.
“I can make you a star,” he’d promised.
Now, she saw him for what he was. A useless drug addict. A vagabond, disguising himself with ambitions and dreams. He’d lured her in with empty promises of fame and adoration.
Turning away from Ronin, Landry watched her friends struggle to lift her body. It was already too late. Not even 911 could save her now.
As they carried her to the bathroom, Landry noticed something fall to the floor.
She walked over to it, remorse and sadness washing over her as she figured out what it was.
The empty needle lay at her feet. A tiny vessel of death.
She heard the water turn on, and Susan’s crying get louder as she accepted defeat. The water wouldn’t save her friend. Bobby was screaming. Ronin was snoring.
The shadows were growing and morphing, closing in all around her.
“It’s too late,” Landry whispered to her friends.
Along the edges of the room, the dark shadows continued to form. They crawled out from under the bed, seeping out of the seams of the walls, the ceiling. They writhed and twisted, a dense black fog, closing in around her. They welcomed her, called to her. Their grotesque fingers curled and beckoned her to come.
It was time.
The darkness, moist and heavy with substance, circled Landry. It teased at her face, her skin.
She looked longingly into the bathroom one last time, wishing she could stay.
But the shadows overtook her.
It was time.
By Jessa Russo
(C) Copyright Jessa Russo 2012. All rights reserved.