Time for another failed Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction story. Failed only insomuch as it failed to place. I actually liked how it turned out, even if the judges didn’t.
April 2020 Furious Fiction criteria:
- Start on the side of a road.
- Include the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON, LEMON
- Include a splash.
Shortlisted stories and winner can be read here.
My Story Placed: Not a cracker
My Story Word Count: 498
My Story Title: Stakeholder Liaison
My Story Story: This was an attempt at the thriller genre, which I don’t really go into much, despite being a horror writer.
by Natalie J E Potts
The splash of rain on my face woke me. Where was I? I sat up, instantly regretting it. The world spun as pain burned the back of my head. Had someone hit me again?
I looked around. I was on an apron of a muddy track where it joined a pot-holed road. Next to me was a lemon of an old car. It wasn’t mine. The company would never let me drive something so cheap.
I was cold and needed to get out of the rain so I could think straight. Using the bumper of the car for support, I stumbled around to the driver’s door. I collapsed into the front seat and pulled the door shut against the cold outside. Something bit painfully into my knee; the key was in the ignition.
It took a couple of turns before the engine caught, then I cranked up the heater. Spiderwebs unfurled in the weak breeze from the vents like ribbons, and I smelled the burning warmth before I felt it.
It took longer than it should have to realise that if the car was running, I could drive. I put it into drive and let off the break. The back of the car suddenly slammed down onto the road, and the subsequent grinding made it clear I wasn’t going anywhere.
A memory blossomed; a woman with a flat tyre. She’d seemed young at first, but once I’d stopped I could see the pigment of her lipstick bleeding into the barcode lines around her elderly lips. She looked like death.
A different smell started to fill the car. Exhaust fumes. The rust-bucket had broken open somewhere when I’d driven it off the jack. I wound the window knob, but nothing happened. I tried turning off the engine, but the key was now jammed.
I had to get out.
I pulled the plastic door handle and it broke off in my hand. Reaching across to the passenger door, I tried to coax it open, but its handle disintegrated like it was centuries old. Or sabotaged.
The fumes became overpowering as dizziness overtook me. Without considering the consequences, I smashed my elbow against the window. It bruised my arm, but had no impact on the glass. These old cars were built like tanks. Awkwardly, I coiled up in the seat to give my legs room to kick the windscreen. Nothing.
With increasingly heavy lids, I opened the glove-box to search for something I could use to smash my way out. Inside was a single white envelope, emblazoned with the icon of my company.
It looked like one of the many envelopes I’d dropped around to inform farmers of the groundwater contamination, for which we were responsible. Compensation was promised. It’s why I was there.
I turned the envelope over to see the name of my murderer. The front was blank, save for a single sentence in an eerily good facsimile of my own hand; “I can’t live with what we’ve done.”