On February 28th, I posted my first piece of flash fiction, titled “Sick Day.” It turned into a collaborative series of sequels written by fellow Bloggers. I had a great deal of fun with the project but have decided the time has come to bring it to a close, so I’m writing an end to it. For now.
If you haven’t already read all the posts in this series, titled “ReBlog Duet Cut & Paste Extravaganza! (Pts. 1 – 5), and are interested in doing so, you can find them, in order, at these links: Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt. 3; Pt. 4; and Pt. 5.
Whether or not you explore those posts, I highly recommend you read my initial story Sick Day before reading its conclusion below.
Sick Day, part 2
I fumbled my phone into my pocket then leaned back against the tunnel wall, taking long, slow, deep breaths. The cold stone felt good on my palms, and my car’s emergency lights had a hypnotic, calming effect. You only imagined it, I thought, it wasn’t real. Couldn’t be real.
I pushed myself off the wall and was about to get back in my car when I heard a loud thud, then another, then another, and felt the ground tremble. Something obscured the sunlight that had been streaming through the eastern end of the tunnel, now lit only by the dim overheads and blinking car lights. I pressed myself back against the wall, closed my eyes, and willed myself to become invisible.
“Mack!” A deep, resonant voice called, and I could feel a faint thrum in the wall. “Mack, I won’t hurt you! Won’t you exit the tunnel?” My heart was a jackhammer. I tried to respond, but I couldn’t speak any more than I could move. A brief eternity passed, then the giant form blocking the tunnel began to shrink. Presently, the large man was small enough to enter the tunnel, but just barely. He began striding toward me, slightly stooped. He leaned against my car’s fender, folded his arms, and stared levelly into my eyes. Innumerable brightly-colored, intricate tattoos covered every bit of exposed skin. They were not images of anything I recognized but were not unlovely. In fact, contemplating their alien beauty soothed me somewhat.
He extended his right hand, and I couldn’t help but reach out and shake it. His grip was firm but not painful, and his palm was dry, rough, and surprisingly hot. He smiled, a crooked, mischievous grin, revealing clean but uneven teeth. His irises were a brilliant red and sparkled like an exquisitely cut ruby. Despite my initial fear, I found myself liking him.
“I’m Leath,” he said, “and I’m due for some time off. I need you to fill in for me for a while. You’re up for it.” He released my hand and leaned back against my car.
“Sure! I… Uhh… Err…” I ran a hand through my hair, glanced right, and put my hands in my pockets. I looked at the ground. I lifted my head and looked into Leath’s eyes, raised my eyebrows, held my arms out, elbows bent, palms up, and shrugged. “I mean…?”
Leath laughed, a booming, boulder-cracking bellow, and clapped me on the shoulder. “Oh, Mack! You crack me up! Don’t sweat it, cousin, there’s nothing to it. I promise you can handle it. And the perks. Ahh, the perks!”
“But where do I go? What do I do? How do I do it? When? I… I mean… How?”
Leath released my shoulder and laid his hand on the roof of my car. It began to shrink, rapidly, evenly, until it looked for all the world like one of the Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars I played with as a child. “Here and there,” he answered, “A little of this, a little of that, every now and then maybe a teensy bit of the other. You’ll know how to do it and when. Don’t worry!” He picked my shrunken car up and held it out to me, dangling it by the keychain it had acquired. “You may need this again someday.”
I took the car and put it in my pocket. Leath put his arm around my shoulder, punched me playfully in the ribs, and turned us toward the mouth of the tunnel. We walked out together into the shadow of Crummer’s Knob. He extended his hand, and I shook it again. “Really, Mack,” he said, eyes twinkling, “You’ll be okay. You’re a natural.” With that he turned and walked off, rising as if walking up a ramp that wasn’t there, growing larger with each step. About 50 yards away and 50 feet up in the air, he turned, waved, and called, “I’ll see you around, cousin! Have fun!” Then he turned, knelt, pinched a corner of sky between his thumb and forefinger, and raised it up with that loud ripping sound I’d heard earlier. I waved and stammered out a weak, “‘Bye.”
I climbed the steep trail to the top of Crummer’s Knob, surprised by the ease of the trek. At the summit, I turned a slow 360, taking in everything I saw, fixing it firmly in my memory. Then I took a step, and another, ascending stairs I couldn’t see. When I felt a change in pressure, I knelt. I pinched a corner of sky between my thumb and forefinger and zipped it upward. It made that same satisfying sound. Then I stepped through.
The end. For now?
My friend Em from Earthly Brain and I had so much fun with this that we’re about to embark upon a new collaborative story project. Stay tuned for our big announcement within the next week!