A woman finds herself imprisoned and surrounded by water; will she get the answers she seeks?
The blood spreads outward in a pattern of crimson lace, flowing into the cracks and gouges that mark the old plank flooring that I lie upon. It has no apparent origin and seems to be seeping through the wood itself, reaching toward me with spidery fingers. The red web slowly forms into a solid pool as I watch. I search my memory for how I came to be in this place; I awoke only a moment ago, curled onto the bottom of a locked iron cage affixed to the deck of what I deduce to be a ferry. I see the craggy terrain that lines the shore and feel movementof water beneath me, but there seems to be no skipper aboard. I am alone.
I know this boat. The MV Glenachulish is the best way to travel to the Isle of Skye from Glen Elg; it is the iconic last operating turntable ferry in Scotland. But while I recognize it, I cannot break through the fog of amnesia. Who did this to me? Why? Equally important, whose blood is that and where is it coming from?
I fix my attention to the blood and I am hit by a putrid stench. It smells of death,like a snake died and rotted in the summer sun. But I’m pretty sure this is no snake, and the smell strengthens as the tide of blood creeps closer, unceasing in its persistence. A sudden and steady knocking begins, soft and rhythmic: knock-knock…knock-knock…a one-two, one-two metronome that breaks me out in gooseflesh. It is everywhere and nowhere.
My throat locks, unable to utter a word or a scream. The voice that speaks my name is a whisper, yet it is loud in my mind. I’m not even sure if I heard it with my ears or if someone speaks inside of me.
The blood ceases its movement and hardens. Impossibly, it rises from the deck and forms the shape of a man. He is abnormally tall and thin, solid in his viscosity. My heart thuds. He takes one supernatural step toward me and raises his hand as if saying “stop.”
“Taryn.” This time the voice booms from his form, and threads of blood float from where his mouth would be, like there is no gravity surrounding him. “You have something we need. You will give it to us.”
I still don’t speak.
His body, if that’s what you want to call it, shifts in different shades of red. There is a movement to him that makes it difficult to focus. The world around me, however, becomes deathly still. The odor releases its grip only to return again. A numbness has settled into me and placed my emotions in stasis.
He steps closer, then touches my cage which springs open. I shuffle backward, heart racing and eyes searching for escape. I’m considering making a run for it and jumping overboard. Logic, if it even applies here, tells me the man could easily stop me. He jabs a thready finger into my face and I’m blinded by a vision of being gagged and dragged aboard this ferry. The image plays out in my mind.
I was at the slip, waiting. There was one other person, a partially carved pumpkin in his arms. It being the beginning of October, the pumpkin naturally brought to mind the fact that this could be one of the last days the ferry ran before they shut down for the winter months. The man and I made small talk. As I’m watching this memory, the man sets the pumpkin down and removes the top. He withdraws a cloth and lunges for me, covering my face. I watch myself go limp as he places the gag. The vision blurs for a moment; in the next scene I see the blood man rise in front of the cage where I was locked. My gag had been removed, and the man simply watches me.
Then he sinks into the planks. The deck is wood once more.
I jerk out of this vision, less than enlightened. He still stands before me, fluid and solid and real; he is only inches away as he dominates the iron doorway. He stabs his bloody finger again and I convulse. My stomach clenches and a groan leaks from me. Whatever he is doing to me is driving needles of pain through my belly. I shut my eyes tight and tears borne of excruciation squeeze out of the corners.
The man steps backward and I’m released from the misery of his torture. There is an emptiness nestled within me now. I taste salt, and realize tears are still streaming down my face. The blood man offers an unsettling grin. “Thank you. You have provided. I will reward.”
Suddenly I am struck by what he has done. I quickly place my hands on my belly and somehow, I know he has taken something precious from me.
I struggle to remember the vision he showed me. It feels important. I suspect the man with the pumpkin was the blood man disguised in human skin. He must have sensed something within me I was not yet aware of. Maybe it’s just a nightmare, and I will wake up…wherever my home is.
The blood man waves his hand and my cage vanishes, but the pain returns to my midsection. I feel a trickle on my legs and look down, horrified to see blood soaking through my pants. He laughs, and the voice is again a whisper in my mind. I know he has taken my children, my future.
He sinks into the planks again, dropping away to nothingness. I am on the boat, free of my cage, but imprisoned by fear and sorrow. Blood makes its way down my legs and a drop falls to the deck.
The ferry surrounding me disappears. I sink into the waters, wondering if this is the reward he promised.
This is the Round 1, Challenge #2 story for the NYCM Flash Fiction Challenge.
My assigned prompts this round were: horror (genre), ferry (location), and a pumpkin (object).
This was perhaps one of the most difficult stories to write that I’ve ever done–mostly due to the fact that I got married on Saturday (yay!). So that meant that I was completely and utterly exhausted when Sunday rolled around, and I simply did not have the time to put into it that I would have preferred. Nevertheless, I pushed through, and managed to finish a piece and submit it by the deadline. So, no matter what happens, I consider this a resounding success! Participating in this challenge has been so educational and inspiring, and whatever happens with my progression in this competition, it is making me a better writer. And thank you to all of the participants who encouraged me and gave me hope that I could get this done on a weekend that no sane person would attempt to write a story on a deadline!
My Challenge #1 story, Shuttling Secrets, placed 13th out of 32! Since this is the very first time I’ve participated in the NYCM Flash Fiction Competition, I was pretty happy to place in the top 15. This has been a hell of an experience, with only 48 hours to write a 1000 word story from the time you receive your prompts at midnight on Friday, to the submittal deadline of midnight on Sunday. Horror is not my main genre, and as luck would have it, I recently wrote my first horror piece solely to practice for this competition! Any and all feedback is welcome, and even encouraged.
Thanks for reading! And good luck to all of my fellow contestants!
**Side note: The image preceding the post is the actual ferry which inspired this story. For more information on this historical turntable ferry in Scotland, check out this page.