Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge

Resurrecting this page for the moment (construction reached an abrupt halt two years ago...we'll have to resume again soon), for posting my entry for the NYC Flash Fiction Challenge, Round 1.

If you're not familiar, the basic rules are that entrants have 48 hours to write a 1,000 word short story.  Entrants are broken into groups, and each group is assigned a genre, a setting, and a prop.

My assignment was Action/Adventure, Sewer, Canteen.

And I'm posting here so that I have a link to share in forums.  Here we go:

Night and Day

“Bosco!  Get the door!” Cascia screamed.

     Bosco dove into the corridor, then pulled the heavy steel until it slid into place with a satisfying snugness.  Cascia leaned back against the wall and removed the canteen tied to the satchel at her side.  The two of them--naturally pale, like everyone else they knew--had somehow lost even more facial color as breath sought purchase in their lungs.  Cascia took two deep swigs before offering the drink to Bosco.  He waved her off and slid down to sit on the stream floor, his back pressed to the cool mildew of the wall tiles.

Cascia replaced the canteen at her mouth and tipped her head straight back until the container rang hollow.
     She wiped her leather sleeve across her mouth, launched the empty vessel at the stream, and looked straight at her commander.

     “You want to explain what in the flush-faced sky just happened?!” Cascia yelled, pointing at the round door in the ceiling.
     “Cash,” Bosco began, using her nickname.
     “That was the fourth failed run this week!  And now, we have to deal with this!”  She tossed her shoulder satchel onto the stream floor.  Something inside moved.
     Cascia began pacing, splashing with each punctuated stomp.  Parroting to herself she said, “‘Drys leave their houses at night,’ he says.  ‘There’s a magic box,’ he says.  ‘Just wear these nightglasses to protect your eyes,’ he says.”  Remembering that she was still wearing them, she pulled the dark glasses from her face and threw them at the stream, too.
     Bosco waded to Cascia’s satchel, uprighted it, and loosened the ties at the top until it fell to the shoulders of a boy. 

Two hours earlier, somewhere on Federal Street just after noon, a manhole cover lifted itself and slid to the side, revealing two figures wearing leather and dark glasses.
     After emerging, the man pointed south on Federal and started running.  The woman followed.
     They left the manhole cover askew.

     Derrick Phillip D’Arcangelo, age thirteen, resident at 867 Federal Street, sat in his bed blasting cannibal space zombie wizards from a purple sky.  His fever was 99.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and Mom had instructed him to call her office promptly if it rose.  On his nightstand were a battery-powered thermometer, a plate with two slices of peanut butter toast (one slice half-eaten), a can of ginger ale, and the TV remote control.  He had just defeated level six and taken another bite of toast, wiping his peanut butter fingers on the sheets, when he heard a noise from the kitchen downstairs.

He slid from bed and carefully padded down the stairs in his socks, peeking around the corner of the stairwell into the kitchen.

     “And watch this!” Bosco said, pulling a handle to open the huge container.  The white box filled with light.

“And it’s safe?” Cascia asked.
     “The Drys keep them right in their houses!” Bosco said.  “If we figure out how they make them...Anyway, first we take this back to Settlement.”

Derrick watched the two people tip the fridge on its side and lift it with alien strength. 
     Derrick sneezed.  He ducked behind the stairwell too late.  They set the fridge down.
     “You said Drys don’t stay in their houses at night!”

Derrick squeezed his eyes closed, trying to disappear, when he felt a hand on his shoulder lift him.  He opened his eyes again. 

     “We’ve gotta take care of him!” the woman said.
     “No!” the man shouted.  “No, he’s just a squid!”
     “We’re Found!  It’s the code!”
     “We’ll bring him,” the man said.
     “Take a Dry squid back to Settlement!  With no run!  What the sky are you thinking?”

Then came the knock at the door.  Through the window, Derrick recognized Mrs. Renn from next door. 
     “Derrick?” she called through the window.  “Your Mom asked me to check on you!  Derrick!”  Then Mrs. Renn saw the two strangers and squealed.
     “In the satchel!  Cash, put him in the satchel!”
     “That’s an order!”
     They threw something over Derrick’s head and he felt himself carried from his house.

Cascia and Bosco ran towards the doorway.  The boy yelled for help until Cascia jabbed the satchel with her elbow.  Bosco looked over his shoulder, and saw two men chasing them.
     He shoved Cascia ahead of him.  The men yelled and pointed weapons.  Something whizzed past Bosco’s ear.  And again.  And again.  The doorway came into sight, the door still open.  Cascia, a dozen strides ahead of Bosco, dropped through.

“Are you vampires?” the boy asked, the bag still restraining him.
     “What does that mean?” Cascia asked.
     “We take him to Constantine,” Bosco said.  Cascia gave up arguing.  She shoved the squid’s head back in, hauled the satchel onto her back again, and they splashed through the stream towards Settlement.

Constantine sat at the far end of the room on an ornate throne Bosco himself brought from a run a dozen winters past.  Constantine smiled at Bosco and Cascia, noting the large satchel.  He knew his commander and best soldier had been struggling.
     “Friends!” Constantine said, spreading his hands towards them.  “What brings my best runners here?”
     “Bad news, I’m afraid,” Bosco said, head bowed from fear rather than deference.  He motioned to Cascia, who took the satchel from her back.

     Cascia, impatient, cut in.
     “We ran into a squid.  A Dry squid, and..."
     “Surely,” Constantine said, his complexion darkening, “you followed protocol.”
     Bosco shuffled his feet.  “He’s just a little squid!  If it had been..."
     “Enough!” Constantine raised his hands.  “Show me.”
     Cascia untied the bag, but as soon as it was loose, the boy fought free and ran.

     “That little chewing, flush-faced...!” Cascia swore.  Bosco took off after the boy.  Cascia followed.

     Derrick ran.  He didn’t care that his drenched socks and pant legs chaffed.  He didn’t care that the zombies heard him splashing through the tunnels.  He scanned the ceiling as he ran until he saw it:  the ladder in the wall leading to the manhole cover.

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