“Hunter and Prey”
The killer was ready, alert. He knew the route his prey would take. He had honed his weapons, and they were razor sharp, ready, hungry.
There it was. The sound of quiet footsteps near the wall. They stopped, paused, seeming to sense the danger. Would the prey continue on, or would she turn back?
The killer waited. Silent.
The prey, unsure, continued forward, more quickly, along the path she’d taken many times before.
If the hunter made a sound at all, it was when he smiled knowing that tonight would be a successful hunt.
If the prey stuck to her regular path, she would pass the killer in a few seconds. The killer could hear her breathing, little pants of fear. Whether imagined or not, he could hear her heart pounding in her chest and the scrabble of her feet as she tried to move more quickly as her fear continued to escalate with each passing second.
Up ahead, she could see the corner that signaled the last leg of her journey. She tried to keep her hope alive repeating to herself over and over, “I can make it. I can make it.”
The killer waited, licking his lips, weapons ready.
She careened around the corner ready for the final dash and was unexpectedly lifted off her feet. Whether she felt the razor sharp edge that slit her from neck to navel is debatable.
Her liver and bowels were carefully placed on the little girl’s front step.
The hunter and the remainder of his prey vanished into the night.
The next day, Lucy opened the front door to see the gifts left there for her…
“Ew, Mom! Shadow caught another mouse last night.”
Contest Entry – not submitted
Must include heart-shaped locket
Word min 600, Word max 2000
“Good Women Grow Flowers”
It was the old woman who had given her the locket.
She knew the pictures inside of it by heart. There were two little girls. If she had to guess, one was about three, and the other was five or six. They were professional photos. The girls had on matching dresses, but they didn’t match.
One had sparkling dark blue eyes. She wasn’t smiling widely. It seemed like she might be missing a tooth. Yet there was something just beautiful about the photo. You could tell she was loved. Perhaps it was the person behind the photographer she was looking at, but there was joy in her face. Looking at her photo made you know there was love in the world.
The other photo was just as fabulous. This child was unquestionably loved as well. Her chubby little arms weren’t positioned the way the photographer wanted them, and you could tell the little girl didn’t care. Maybe it was the twinkle in her light blue eyes or her oh-so-slightly wrinkled nose. Her smile was moments from an ornery giggle. It was probably the last good photo the photographer got that day. But it was priceless. If the other picture spoke of love, this one spoke of laughter.
The old woman would stare at the open heart-shaped locket until her eyes grew cloudy. Then she would shut it gently, place it against her chest, and go to sleep.
The woman had shown Oaklyn the pictures several times. It was obvious they were important to the old woman, but during the months they were in the small shelter, the old woman never spoke.
More than once, Oaklyn had studied the old woman’s face while she slept to see if she could see pieces of the little girls there.
Six months ago, Oaklyn had been taking a walk. This neighborhood had 100-year-old trees, Victorian houses, and flowers...oh the roses, hydrangeas, gladiolas.
Some people think of flowers and romance, but Oaklyn remembered a childhood filled with flowers by the ocean. Her grandma grew the vegetables they needed, but then there were the flowers. Bursts of color to brighten your soul a lot like the old woman’s garden.
She was slowly walking past the garden when the sirens started.
They weren’t police or fire sirens but some sort of long droning whine that seemed to come and go, but never entirely stop before it became strong again.
It was while she was trying to make sense of the sounds that her arm was grabbed and she was dragged into a hole in the ground.
Too shocked to scream or fight, she was pushed onto a cot and strapped to it. There were no words spoken. In truth, she was handled firmly, matter of factly. There didn’t seem to be any malicious intent.
Her mouth hadn't been gagged. She could start screaming, but would it do any good? Why hadn’t she screamed outside?
Her arms were strapped firmly against her body and the cot. Her legs were also confined, but like her mouth, her eyes had been left uncovered.
If only she had laser vision. Her old boyfriend used to imagine that was his superpower. They’d broken up weeks ago. Why was she thinking about Leo?
Maybe she was trying to think who might miss her. The answer was probably nobody. Everybody on Earth had been becoming more and more isolated for years. The first pandemic followed by race riots and uncivil wars was followed by another pandemic and so on.
Oaklyn realized how foolish she had been to take a walk. She could have taken a virtual walk from her apartment. Besides, were the flowers even real? Stupid, stupid, stupid…
Trying to collect her thoughts, Oaklyn realizes although it’s dim that she appears to be in a small room. There is definitely no clear light source, but maybe glow-in-the-dark tape?
She hears shuffling, but it’s what she hears next that stops all other thoughts.
The other person hears it too. And both become totally still. Complete silence in the room only makes the sound neither wants to believe they hear louder. There had been the sonic boom of an aircraft. It was followed by the whoosh of rockets, and as the accelerant burned off, the eerie whistle of missiles falling to Earth.
There was no sound of impact. But briefly the room was completely illuminated when light burst in around the edges of the door where Oaklyn must have been pulled through. The other figure quickly jumped into action and began to tape around the edges of the door. Tape was pulled, ripped, and applied repeatedly. Quickly, efficiently the job was completed.
Then, the very ground vibrated. This was followed by cracks, groans, and faintly, the unmistakable sound of gunfire. As frightening as that might seem, it did mean that there were people somewhere not too far away.
The figure, who appeared to be an old woman, sat down and held her head. It was her silhouette barely visible in the gloom that made Oaklyn realize that the world she knew had ended. Silently tears ran uncomfortably into her ears as she lay strapped to the cot.
Oaklyn didn’t know how long she’d been on the cot, but she wanted to be free. She’d quietly tested the straps and knew that getting loose on her own was unlikely. She remembered wanting things as a little girl. Her family didn’t have much, but there were times she went without when she didn’t have to. She’d be telling her grandmother about it, and her grandma always said, “Did you ask?” Oaklyn had nothing to lose.
She figured it had been hours since she used her voice. But she licked her lips and quietly said out loud, “Will you please let me go?”
The old woman pulled a stool over next to the cot. She produced a small light and stared intently into Oaklyn’s face. The light comforted Oaklyn and let her study the woman holding her captive.
Oaklyn guessed the woman to be in her late 60s. Her hair was mostly grey, and she had more wrinkles than Oaklyn hoped to get, but her eyes were clear and her cheek moved as she appeared to chew on the inside of it.
The woman pointed to the sealed door and shook her head, “no.”
Oaklyn looked at the door and the woman, and again the woman pointed at the door and shook her head, “no.”
Oaklyn didn’t know why the woman didn’t speak, but she thought she got the gist and said, “I can’t leave?”
The woman’s shoulders slumped. She grabbed her neck and acted as though she was choking. She again pointed to the door and shook her head, “no.”
This time Oaklyn said, “I’d get sick outside?”
The woman nodded “yes” but didn’t move to free Oaklyn. She continued to stare at the girl and chew on her cheek. Grabbing Oaklyn during the sirens hadn’t been planned. The woman had seen a girl admiring flowers and remembered two others who had loved flowers. The girl would not have survived outside.
However, the woman also knew that Oaklyn would kill them both if she tried to leave the underground shelter. She had to make sure Oaklyn knew what was at stake before she freed her.
Oaklyn’s mouth was pinched and her eyebrows furrowed. Maybe the old woman was some kind of nut job. Maybe Oaklyn should be quiet and see if the old woman would go away again. Why didn’t she just tell Oaklyn what she wanted?
Sensing her frustration, the woman moved away from Oaklyn.
Oaklyn's frustration grew, and she tried to slide free of the straps with no luck. She tried twisting to break the latches. Her anger became a force you could feel.
Finally she yelled, “Woman, what do you want? I know I can’t open the door or we’ll get sick. I know we are stuck here. If you’re some kind of freak, just kill me now because it will be better for both of us.”
Oaklyn didn’t realize what she’d done, but the old woman was smiling. The old woman was moving toward her watching her closely, but it seemed to be with relief. You see, Oaklyn had finally said “we” instead of just “me.”
The woman released Oaklyn and gave her a tour of their new home. There was literally a toilet with kitty litter. There was a narrow room packed with supplies, bottled water, and canned goods. Oaklyn guessed there was a year’s worth of food. She realized without her, the woman would have had two year’s worth of supplies.
They quietly fell into a routine. It was apparent that the woman had expected to use the bomb shelter and was prepared. She taught Oaklyn yoga. There was a library she shared. Several decks of cards were available. There was a harmonica, but neither was good at it, and a harmonica in a small place can be really loud. Still they managed.
There was also paper and pencils. Oaklyn drew pictures of the flowers she’d see outside and memories of her grandma’s flowers. The old woman hung them up.
Eventually, the old woman stopped doing yoga every day. She asked Oaklyn with hand signals to read to her indicating her eyes were tired, and she seemed to pull out her locket more often.
One day, she patted the stool next to her bed. In a short note, she told Oaklyn that she was sick. Maybe she had taken too long in sealing the door, or maybe she’d been sick before and didn’t know it. Regardless, she was going to die. She had pills to take, but she wanted Oaklyn to have her locket, the one with the little girls filled with love and laughter.
Oaklyn was honored to receive the gift, and before she could do anything else, the old woman quickly swallowed several pills. Her breathing slowed and stopped as Oaklyn sat by her bed.
Oaklyn gently covered her face and mourned quietly. There had been too much death during her lifetime.
The old woman had planned for much but not for a corpse in the shelter. Nature soon took over, and Oaklyn was being driven from the shelter by the decaying body.
Since that first day, Oaklyn hadn’t heard a sound from the outside.
Yoga had strengthened her body enough to carry a fair amount of canned goods. She hid the remaining supplies as well as she could in the shelter. She might need to come back. Slowly she peeled the tape away from the door.
The brightness made her eyes hurt. The gardens, Victorians, and trees were gone. Slowly turning in a circle, there was nothing to see, not a single landmark. The ground was covered in several inches of white dust.
Oaklyn remembered hearing that dust was mostly dead skin cells. She couldn’t decide if that was totally gross, wrong, or even kinda funny.
What should she do? She might be able to make a tent near the shelter and dive into it if she sensed danger. She could bring the old woman up and bury her in the dust. Then, she could stay in the shelter.
Oaklyn decided her time with the old woman was over. She was afraid but thought she could head for the coast. Perhaps the ocean was able to survive the missiles.
With the locket and her pack, Oaklyn headed east.
She slogged her way to the ocean through the mounds of dust never seeing another soul or anything but mounds of dust. More tired and thirsty than she’d ever been before in her life, she opened the locket as she sat on the beach.
She drew a flower in the sand and remembered the women who’d grown flowers in her life.
Lying down now next to her drawing, Oaklyn shut the locket gently, placed it against her chest, closed her cloudy eyes, and drew her last breath.