For this week’s “Flash Fiction Challenge“, Chuck Wendig has gone back to an old, familiar setup, i.e. a plot conflict chosen from a list by a random number generator. I got #9, “a spiteful child”. As usual, we’ve been instructed to write “1,000 words or so” and, as usual, my story is about 25% longer than that. This one turned out dark (again), almost to the point where I was starting to feel ill while writing it, knowing where it was headed. It’s an almost giddy feeling in retrospect, like a sign that I tapped into a little bit of the “real stuff”. I hope you enjoy it and agree.
As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
The rain was pounding outside, sheets of water flowing off the roof as the gutters and downspouts were filled beyond capacity. Flashes of lightning lit up the dark, late afternoon landscape with the accompanying thunderclaps just a second or two behind. The storm was getting worse and getting closer.
Emma didn’t care.
She sat sullenly in the dark of her bedroom, glowering at the murky twilight, simmering in her anger and feeding the rage building up within her. It wasn’t fair. Her mother couldn’t do this to her. Emma wasn’t a baby any more. She wasn’t going to put up with it.
A spectacularly bright bolt lit up the world as a deafening roar simultaneously shook the whole house. As the echoes started to die away, Emma noticed that all of the little sounds of the household had ceased. She could no longer hear the television on in the living room, the washing machine, or the fan on her computer. The light coming through the crack under her bedroom door was gone.
From the other end of the house Emma could hear her mother walking around, her footsteps echoing hollowly on the hardwood floors. Emma heard the front closet opening, soon followed by the tinny sound of the battery-powered emergency radio. Over it all, the sound of the rain kept growing louder.
Hearing her mother’s footsteps coming down the hall toward her room, Emma flopped down onto the bed and turned her back to the door. She heard the door open and saw the beam of a flashlight sweep across the wall above her.
“Emma, I need you to get your hiking boots, raincoat, and rain hat on right away. We need to leave immediately.”
“I thought that you said that I had to stay in my room,” Emma said scornfully, refusing to turn away from the wall. “So now I’m going to stay in my room, just like you said!”
“Emma, there’s no time for this. The storm’s getting worse and they’re telling everyone to get out of the canyon. They’re afraid that the creek may start to flood. We really need to get into the car right away. I need you to get ready to go while I get Andy into his car seat.”
“No! I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here!”
“Emma, there’s no time for this. You have to be a big girl and help me. Please get ready while I take care of Andy.”
Emma heard her mother leave and walk back down the hall. Stubbornly, Emma refused to move. She waited, seething, marshaling her arguments for her mother’s return.
After a few minutes she could hear her mother coming back. Even before she got into the room she could see that Emma had completely disregarded her instructions. She forcefully let out an exasperated and angry sigh as she entered.
“Emma! This is not a game,” her mother shouted. “This is serious and dangerous. Get ready now, we have to leave right away!”
“You told me that I couldn’t play out in the rain and I had to stay in my room! Now you tell me just the opposite? I’m staying in my room!”
“Emma, the creek on the other side of the road is starting to flood. The storm is getting worse and we have to get out. If we get trapped up here it could be extremely dangerous. We have to evacuate now. It’s an emergency!
“I’m going to put Andy in the car and then I’ll be back for you in one minute. You have got to be ready to go!” Emma heard her closet door being yanked open, followed by her raincoat, hat, and boots being flung onto her bed next to her feet. “NOW, young lady!”
Emma waited until she heard her mother close the front door before she sat up on the bed. She peeked out of the shutters and saw her mother struggling to get Andy strapped into the car seat in the back of the family van. She could barely see out for all of the water on the window. Above everything she could hear water roaring in what had always been a tiny creek on the far side of the road.
Emma put her boots and rain gear on with a pout. If she was going to leave, she was not going to abandon her doll collection. She grabbed her school backpack and started stuffing her favorite toys into it. But suddenly her mother was there, dripping wet, and pulling the backpack away. She rudely tossed it into the corner.
“There’s no time for that!” her mother shouted. “In the car now!”
It was too much. She had to have her dolls.
“No! I’m not going!”
Her mother grabbed Emma by the arm and started dragging her down the hallway, leaving all of the dolls and toys behind. Emma dug in her heels and started screaming in protest, trying to grab onto a doorway or the table in the hallway, but her mother’s pull was too strong. When they got to the open front door, her mother picked her up like a sack of potatoes and carried her through the deluge.
Emma was enraged, kicking and screaming. Her mother plopped her down in the back seat next to Andy’s car seat, quickly pulled the seat belt across Emma, and buckled her in.
“Don’t you dare move!” her mother screamed over the storm, her face red and her finger pointing into Emma’s face. “I have to get my purse and our emergency packs and then I’ll be back in one minute.” She turned and charged back into the house.
Emma didn’t wait and didn’t think. She quickly unbuckled the seat belt and hopped down from the car. She was furious with her mother and was not going to do anything that she was told. In a flash she had the bright yellow raincoat and hat off, flinging them away into the wind. Turning from the car, she ran up the hill and around the bushes on the far side of the driveway.
Her mother’s scream of “EMMA!” let her know that her escape had been noted. Peering through the bushes she saw her mother dropping her load to the lawn and frantically peering around. She turned this way and that, screaming Emma’s name.
Suddenly she saw Emma’s raincoat across the street. It had been carried by a gust of wind across the road and was now headed downhill rapidly in the rushing water. Without hesitation she ran across the street toward the disappearing raincoat.
Emma watched dumbly as her mother skidded to a halt and went wading into the shin-deep water covering the street. She continued to splash down the hill, trying to catch up with the raincoat, getting closer and closer to where the edge of the roadway must be. Suddenly she lost her footing and went down into the water. In just a few seconds, her shouts and screams faded away as she was carried around a curve in the road.
Emma walked slowly down to the car, now cold, soaked, and scared out of her wits. She was stunned. Starting to shiver violently, Emma crawled up into the back seat of the car and looked out the open door into the downpour.
What had she done? What should she do next? Emma turned and looked at Andy, who was starting to squirm and fuss, but he had no answers.