Here’s my entry for the 1st round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. If you’d like to read about my experience writing this story, click here! Thanks in advance for reading, and thanks for any feedback you might have.
Reminder, I had 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts:
by Jenna Willett
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While coping with the tragic death of her husband, Kate travels to Jackson Hole with her son. Along the way, they learn the true meaning of inevitable when disaster strikes.
“Ta-da! We made it!” Kate pulled the keys from the ignition and grinned over her shoulder. “See, I told you–“
Andy stared down at his lap. His pj’s were soaked. “Sorry, Mommy.”
Kate’s shoulders slumped. “Don’t be sorry, Boo. Sometimes inevitable things happen.”
He sniffed. “What’s invetable?”
“In-ev-it-able,” she pronounced for him. “It means out of our control. Sometimes bad things happen when we don’t want them to.”
Her heart constricted. “That wasn’t inevitable. That was an accident.” She twisted her wedding ring and squeezed the diamond against her palm. The pain felt good. Grounding. Calming. “Come on,” she coaxed. “Let’s clean up and get some food. If we don’t hurry, it’s inevitable I’m gonna eat you.”
Andy wiped his teary eyes. “You can’t eat me, Mommy. I’m a boy.”
“Yes, but you look so delicious.” She snapped her teeth.
Although it was past 8 p.m., Doug’s Truck Stop was bright and alive with families and truckers. Kate draped her jacket over Andy and dug fresh clothes out of his duffle bag. Hand-in-hand, they walked across the oil-stained parking lot.
“It smells weird, Mommy.”
“Yeah, like–” He inhaled deeply. “Like band-aids.”
“Band-aids? What do those smell like?”
Andy grinned. “Blood and poop!”
His triumphant smile lit up her world. She rumpled his hair and urged him through the door. Before it shut, she sniffed the air: Gasoline, trash, cigarettes, and…corrosion.
She wrinkled her nose.
Inside, the lights above her flickered. Frowning, she herded Andy to the bathroom. After he’d changed, and they’d negotiated dinner–“Snickers if you eat an apple first”–they got in line behind an old trucker.
He pointed at the candy in Andy’s hand. “Hey, that’s my favorite too!”
Andy pressed his face against Kate’s leg.
The old man chuckled. “You know, it’s a fact Snickers is the best candy in the world. If you don’t believe me, ask your mom and dad.”
“My Daddy died.”
Stricken, the old man looked at Kate. She bit her lip and caressed the diamond to fight back the tears. He mumbled his condolences and turned to checkout.
Again, the lights flickered.
“Damn things,” the cashier grumbled. “They’ve been doing that all day.”
“It’s aliens,” said the trucker. “I’m telling you. We’ve been invaded.”
“Aliens?” Andy whispered to Kate.
She rubbed the back of his neck. “He’s kidding.”
“No, I’m not! I saw military movin’ in last night.”
“Zip it, Pete. You’re scarin’ the kid.”
A faint boom rumbled.
The lights winked off…on.
The cashier swore.
Kate tossed a ten on the counter and marched outside with Andy. The air smelled worse than before, like rotting eggs. Sulfuric acid, perhaps? Flashes of lightning sparked from afar, followed by thunder.
“Hurry,” she urged Andy. She wanted to get to Jackson Hole before the storm hit.
Once they were in the car, Andy asked, “Aliens aren’t real, right?”
“Right.” She put the keys in the ignition.
“But monsters are?”
“Of course not, silly.”
“But you told Grandma a monster killed Daddy.”
Her stomach turned. “That was a different kind of monster.” She shuddered and flipped the ignition. It’d been three months since Ryan had been killed by a drunk driver. If it hadn’t been for Andy…
“Don’t cry, Mommy.”
“I can’t help it. It’s inevitable when you’re sad and–“
A sudden harsh alarm blared through the radio.
Andy squealed and pressed his hands over his ears.
“We interrupt our programming,” a male robotic voice announced. “This is a national emergency–“
The radio snapped off and the engine died. The lights above the gas pumps went out and the convenience store fell into darkness.
“Mommy…?” Andy whimpered.
“It’s okay,” she breathed. “It’s just a power surge–“
A piercing wail silenced her. It was followed by a deep, bone jarring jolt that shook the car.
Kate gripped the steering wheel. What…What?
Someone slammed their hand against her window. She screamed.
It was Pete.
“Get inside! It’s coming!”
Kate followed his frantic gestures. Across the parking lot people ran, screamed, and clawed at each other to get into the convenience store. One girl stood frozen, her eyes fixed on the horizon.
“MOVE!” Pete yanked Kate out of the car.
The smell of rot stung her nose, making her eyes water. Howls and groans she couldn’t comprehend echoed around her. They seemed to be coming from every direction.
Pete shoved Andy into Kate’s arms. “Run, dammit!”
She hugged him to her and bolted. The sky shrieked with inhuman sounds, and the ground trembled so violently, she feared she’d tumble.
The sky went white.
Blinding, icy, horrifying white.
It was so bright and unexpected, Kate screamed and dropped to the ground to shield Andy. The wind stole her breath and the unearthly shrieks threatened to burst her eardrums.
Strong hands heaved Kate off the ground and forced her into the convenience store.
“I’m scared,” Andy sobbed against her throat.
“What is it?”
She scrambled for an answer. Aliens? Terrorists? A natural disaster? She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
A horrible realization dawned upon her.
They were going to die.
It was unfair and cruel, but it was inevitable. Whatever was happening outside was inescapable. She couldn’t run or hide. Just like her husband, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She squeezed her ring and hugged Andy closer.
They were all together.
The earth began to convulse and heave. The building groaned and the windows burst. A cloud of ash swirled inside. The crowd screamed. Pete sobbed next to Kate.
Andy was silent in her arms.
She closed her eyes and kissed the top of his head. “Don’t be scared, Boo. It’s okay. I love you. I love–
A flake of ash from Yellowstone Park’s catastrophic eruption floated over Doug’s Truck Stop. It drifted down and landed on the only thing shimmering in the ruins.
To read more stories, visit my Jen’s Pen page.