Flash Fiction Challenge: Curiosity

Photo by K.S. Brooks

I could see the cooling towers ahead. I had made it to within sight of my objective, but I was not undetected. I saw the unmarked white security truck barreling toward my position.

I didn’t know whether they’d just turn me back or take me in for questioning. Maybe they’d shoot first and ask questions later.

I had passed several sets of warning signs, proceeding onward against my better judgment, but I had to know. Like everyone else, I’d knew the “official” story. I’d also heard some wild rumors, but something drove me to find out what goes on back here. I have to know for myself, see with my own eyes what they do at Indies Unlimited.

In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time on Tuesday, October 9th 2012.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted.

10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Curiosity

  1. Worry gnaws at my stomach as the security truck grows nearer. I have heard stories of people entering the facility grounds never to be seen again. Yet, I keep my foot on the accelerator. I can’t turn back. Not now.

    The truck abruptly swerves into my lane. My Prius would have no chance against the heavily armored beast. My sweaty palms tighten on the wheel, ready to take action in a deadly game of chicken.

    Suddenly, the truck swerves back into its lane, turns sharply in the opposite direction, and careens off the road, kicking up desert dust in its wake. The truck flips and does a half-dozen revolutions before coming to rest on its side..

    I slam on my breaks, my heart pounding. My morality kicks in and I jump out of the car, rushing towards the wreckage. As I approach, its back wheels are still spinning. The dust chokes me, so I hold my forearm across my face.

    “Are you okay?” No answer. They probably can’t hear me over the running engine.

    I clamber onto the side of the truck and look into the open passenger window. I am barely able to leap back from the clutching hand of some kind of monster, humanoid in shape, but reptilian in appearance. It groans as if in terrible pain. There is no humanity in its voice.

    I race back to my car, chest heaving, pulse racing. I turn and drive away, never looking back.

  2. There it was. I could see the smoke stacks. I knew I was close…possibly closer than any other living person had ever gotten. My heart pounded – all I could hear was my pulse and my own breaths. This was stupid, for certain. But for some reason, I just couldn’t resist.

    For the past year, these people had entertained me with articles laden with snark, wit, and a professionalism I’d not encountered anywhere else in the Indie author scene. They had a “je ne sais quoi” – and I wanted to know what that was. How…how did they do it? The answer had to be behind those bunker-like walls.

    I had no idea what I’d do once I got there. I mean, I’m just an author, not a spy. Had the driver of the white truck seen me? Were they just playing with me? Letting me get close…get a taste of what I might see and then grab me?

    Something beneath my foot squished. I lost my balance and fell to the ground. I should have been looking where I was going. Was it a trip wire? Some kind of remote security device? My stomach knotted when I saw…it was a dead guy. There was a business card in his hand. I gulped past the huge lump in my throat as I reached for the card. It read “Big Six Publishing House.” Wow. He had no idea what he was up against, did he? Fool. Thanks to Indies Unlimited, we don’t need him anymore, anyway.

    I smiled. They wouldn’t hurt me. I’m an Indie.

  3. Realising that my cover was blown, I stabbed the button to open the side window, then reached across for the Snark Gun lying on the passenger seat. I activated it, poked the barrel out of the window and fired. The crackling blue bubble of concentrated snark burned through their windshield as our vehicles passed, and the shocked looks I glimpsed on the henchmen’s faces satisfied me.

    Whatever their orders had been, now they could not carry them out.

    I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see their white truck coasting on; instead of dealing with me, for the next hour they’d only be able to make facetious observations, and try to outdo each other with ever more sarcastic comments. Thank God for the Snark Gun.

    But now, every second mattered. I jabbed the pedal to the floor to reach the cooling towers as soon as possible. Likely somewhere in there they had detected the snark blast and could track my position. The guy who hired me for this job warned me that the defences would be strong, that’s why his backers were paying me such crazy money.

    Some outfit he called “The Big 6” wanted these people out of commission, and I didn’t even have to kill anyone. All I had to do was break in, plant the device, and get out again. I felt it weighing in my pocket – he called it an “English language credibility destroyer”, and once it was in their systems, they’d be finished.

  4. Rosewell Too by Timothy Hurley 247 words

    I think, “They must be shooting the Close Encounters sequel.” Or maybe this is the real deal. In a bar in Roswell I hear rumors about the secret Indies Uninhibited campus. Back on the road, window down, I sniff. No poison gas. Just the smell of dead animals: cattle and pigs and chickens.

    I’m not the first to try. Rumors are they’re burning publications from the Big Three. I don’t believe it. I.U.’s doing okay for a fledgling. Why would they trash books from the major publishing houses? It makes no sense. Either way, if I get viral film onto YouTube, I’m The Man and Jennifer has to stop turning me down.

    I’m close. I see low buildings and three stacks belching dark smoke. Maybe I’m wrong about I.U. A gray Ford, lights off, approaches from the other direction. CIA? I.U. goons? I pull to the shoulder, and the car goes by. It’s filled with a family dressed as Martians, and the plates say Wyoming.

    I get out of my car anyway and head across the desert toward the buildings. I crab walk serpentine undetected to the parking lot. There are voices, and the smell of burning flesh overpowers. Smart phone on video, I rise over the hood of a Suburu.

    I see the barbeque pit and the banner: “Happy Anniversary Indies Uninhibited, One year.” The dude who smiles and hands me the plate of ribs is wearing a name tag: “Stephen.” I wish Jennifer were here.

  5. The van skidded to a halt in front of my car sliding sideways to block me. The tinted windows prevented my view into the conveyance.

    With bated breath, I clenched the steering wheel preparing for the worst. Seconds passed by slowly as I stared at the vehicle.

    A crackling radio interrupted the silence, “Step out of the vehicle.” My stomach crawled into my throat.

    Indecision coursed through my mind. Should I plow forward? Should I obey their commands? Brushing off self-doubt, my resolve kicked in. This is what I came for.

    I stepped out of the vehicle.

    “Slowly,” a male voice ordered.

    “Okay, okay,” I remarked.

    The doors to the van swung open revealing two figures clothed in radioactive protective suits. Crap!

    “Don’t turn around,” a soft female voice said quite forcibly. “Put your hands behind your back.” I obeyed. I braced myself for a tight fit, but the cuffs were surprisingly…fuzzy.

    “What’s this,” I asked.

    Mr. Radio replied, “You were getting too close.“

    “Too close?”

    The figures in front of me slowly raised automatic rifles toward me. I closed my eyes, waiting for the last sounds I would ever hear.

    “It’s time for you to get what’s coming to you.”

    “No,” I screamed as they soaked me from head to toe with double-barrel super soakers. I now knew what the suits were for.

    “What did you think we were going to do? Kill you?”

    I.U. was definitely not what it seemed. It was even better.

  6. Stopping Out of Fuel on a Snowy Evening

    Whose stacks these are I think I get,
    For he controls the power net;
    His columns rise as if to mock
    My own physique inadequate.

    My new hybrid must think it wry
    To stop ‘tween road and cloudy sky
    Without a drop of fuel or juice
    And survey this monstrosity.

    Perhaps this other passing car
    Will ask me why I’ve come this far
    And yet can’t make these last few feet
    But sit here with my door ajar.

    This basic lack of fueling source
    Has left me here without recourse,
    And makes me wish I had a horse,
    And makes me wish I had a horse.

  7. The apocalypse had wiped out almost everyone in existence. Steven had been wondering alone for days on end, looking for more survivors. Scourging for food, he feasted on small animals: be it a mouse, rat, opossum, skunk, or rabbit. Expending his last match many days ago, all his meals were eaten raw. Steven was desperate and had no other choice.
    Throughout his travels, he had worn the soles of his shoes down to nothing. Removing them and going barefoot, his feet became blistered and bloody from the rough terrain. His face and exposed body covered in scrapes and scabs oozing with infections. Fatigued and sore, he pushed himself on.
    Painfully walking down the highway, he didn’t know which one, or where it even lead, he just hoped to find someone, anyone. After what seemed like an eternity, he saw in the distance what appeared to be a power plant of sorts. Smoke rising from the stacks showed it was operating. Excitement spread throughout his consciousness, for he had finally found more survivors, he hoped.
    As he proceeded, a car quickly came into view, stopping a good distance in front of him. Picking up his pace, thinking he was finally safe, Steven painfully limped his worn out body toward the car. As he approached, a guy leaned out the passenger window yelling: “zombie”, as he opened fire with an AK47. Steve only felt the first bullet as it hit him dead between the eyes, the rest were just over kill.

  8. The smoke. Yes, mysterious vapour harmlessly attacking the ozone, but layer of deceit; I know, for I cannot be effortlessly bamboozled, not since I started taking my meds. ‘The Talented’ ploy with no more substance than ‘Mr Ripley’, ‘Lost’ now, dead, like ‘The Others’, but he’d been a fool, a fool, only ‘FOOLS Rush In’.

    Yes, the smoke, the smoke will lead the way to their anti-establishment faction. I must pursue the chemical hazard of undulating frenzy where it digs a path, for I WILL expose their clandestine goings-on to the world once-and-for-all – if the battery on my iPhone 5 holds out, for not ONE man along this perilous expedition owns an appropriate charger. But still, undeterred, is my ‘Mission Impossible’.

    Alluring, the smoke’s captivating industriousness, ingeniously designed; disguising malevolent intent, and soon, ye-s SOON, it will strangle my soul, clutch my individuality deep within its mainstream heart, strangle my ‘Free Willy’, alter my mindset with contagious mists of reason so that then, yes, THEN, I may go forth like ‘Sean of the Living Dead’ and spread tale as an 18th century villager who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts. Oh… if ONLY there were one word that would describe such a creature, just ONE word that I may use others more effectively. Or… then again, maybe I’ll just go there in the little white van, for I hear its four-sided wheels a-clunkin’. Ye-s, that’ll whisk me asunder.

    “Your birthday cake is BURNING!” I scream.

    Oh, the smoke.

  9. I was undeterred by those signs. I’m a journalist. I had a First Amendment right to be there.

    The security vehicle halted. The driver got out and waved me to a stop. “ID?” the guy demanded, his outstretched hand nearly touching my face through my open window.

    I handed over my press pass. He scrutinized it, glancing between the picture and my face a few times, then abruptly thrust it back and said, “You’re not on the guest list.”

    “I’m an investigative reporter,” I said. “We don’t need no stinkin’ invitations.” Then I grinned – disarmingly, I hoped.

    The guy sighed. “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that joke,” he muttered. “Sorry. Nobody gets in without an invitation.”

    “Here’s my invitation,” I said, smiling sweetly, and hit the big purple button on my dashboard.

    With a great gout of tailpipe fire, my Acme Rocket-Propelled Accelerator engaged and the car shot away from the guard and was airborne in a matter of seconds. I shouted with glee as the smokestacks got bigger. And bigger.

    “Close enough,” I cried, and pulled on the big purple button to begin my deceleration. The button came off in my hand. “Uh-oh,” I said, just before impact.

    As my crumpled car tore through the “Happy Birthday, Indies Unlimited” banner and whumped to a stop, a woman with a little dog approached. She thrust a paper plate at me through my still-open window and said, “Nice entrance – very discreet. Birthday cake?”

  10. Indies Unlimited. The “I” had to be an attempt to hide their real name, “Undies Unlimited”. This must be a thong and pastie factory. My mission – prove it.

    They drew me, those smoking stacks. I had to see – no, I had to be there. Why? Reason told me to stay away. But I had no choice. I left the car and bellied to the gate, hiding behind tufts of sere grass. Where were to guards, the dogs, the megaphone warnings? Eerie silence. Not what others had encountered, others who had turned back.

    I tunneled under the fence and found myself in a tall hedge maze. Somehow I knew the pattern, followed it unerringly to the door of a granite fortress. The door stood ajar, beckoning. It called to me, lured me, like a siren. I wanted to enter. I cat-footed across the few feet of gravel and touched the jamb, keeping to one side so I would not be seen.

    Something made me turn back to make sure I could still see the pattern in the maze, in case I needed to make a dash for it. All I saw was a wall of cedar. No pattern, no entrance, no way back.

    “We’ve been waiting for you.”

    I whirled around to see a man with EM tattooed in scarlet on his bare chest.

    “You’ll need a uniform” He held out his hand. In it lay a thong and a pair of pasties in prison orange. “Your typewriter awaits”.

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