Flash Fiction: Cube Route

flash fiction library booksWell, I’m still trying to get back into a regular writing routine, and the flash fiction challenges hosted at Terribleminds.com are a damn good way of doing it. The challenge this week was to take five from a given list of ten words and write a piece of fiction in which those words are the main elements. This time I can’t just crowbar a word or phrase in, they have to be elements of the story.

I chose the following words:

  • Storm
  • Cube
  • Ethereal
  • Undertaker
  • Library

I’ve gotten a bit out of practice with these flash fiction challenges so if you do read this and have the sudden urge to leave a comment it would be graciously received (providing it is graciously written of course) and very helpful.

Flash Fiction: Cube Route

Isaac took off his glasses and threw them down on to the large book open in front of him. He hated the library. He hated the silence, he hated the smell; he hated the people who worked there who always looked down on him when he left without checking out any books. It’s not as if he had any choice, medical books are expensive and if he could afford to buy them he wouldn’t need his part-time undertaker job. But he did need his job. He needed to spend much of his revision time applying makeup to dead people, this is why he was the last person in the library after midnight.

Isaac rubbed his eyes, through another headache. He was so close to his exam, and once he’d passed it he could worry about the head-pains but until then he would just have to manage. They weren’t that bad anyway, he thought just as his head felt as if it was being crushed in a vice.

When he opened his eyes there was something on the desk in front of him. It was a greyish-blue cube about the size of an apple, but there was something else about it. Something that took him a few seconds to spot, he could see through it. Isaac tentatively reached out towards the cube but where his fingers should have made contact they passed through without resistance. A flash of lighting and a rumble of thunder made him jump, and he instinctively draw back his hand.

It was dark outside and rain was starting to pitter-patter against the windows, an event that would normally have triggered a diatribe against the weather although his attention was unsurprisingly elsewhere.

Isaac watched the cube for a few seconds. He moved his head around the object as if it would give him a better view and more understanding of the strange artifact.  With no further obvious clues, he tried to touch the cube again but like last time his fingers passed through the surface. Except there was a difference this time, he could feel some resistance as his hand passed through as if the cube was made of water.

The storm outside was now becoming much worse, the rain hammered against the windows and the trees outside swayed dangerously in the strong wind. One of the windows flew open, forcing him to walk over to the window and struggle against the winds to close it.

He looked back at the cube that was still innocently waiting for him on the desk. What the hell was it and where did it come from? He hated cliché’s but he had to suspect he was just working too hard. Isaac sat back down at the desk, and slowly brought his fingers towards the cube but this time his fingers made contact and the cube moved. He retracted his fingers cautiously, and then gently picked up the cube as solid as a child’s building block. As he held it, he felt an odd tingling sensation in his hand.

Suddenly the windows of the library were blown in as lightning cracked louder than Isaac had ever heard. Glass sprayed throughout the library, and rainwater poured through the openings. The tornado strong winds cycled through the library, blowing the papers around the floor. The timbers creaked, and cracks began to appear in the whitewashed walls of the library. He looked around for somewhere to hide. He had experienced several earthquakes and the odd tornado in his life, but there was something that felt very different about this storm. Quickly spotting a broom cupboard under some stairs, He rushed for safety still carrying the cube with him.

There he waited, listening to the sounds of devastation and praying that he would be safe inside his cupboard. He tried to distract himself from the sound of the library being blown down around his ears by trying to feel his way round the cube but he could still get nothing more from it.

When the noises had died down, the silence was eerie. He opened the door and slowly pushed it open. He couldn’t believe what he saw. There was no library, in fact the town as he knew it had gone. Isaac stood on a long beach of white sand, the sky was bright but he couldn’t see any sun in the emerald blue sky. The cube had gone from his hands. He was sure that he hadn’t put it down but he was having a hard enough time dealing with the last few minutes and wasn’t sure about anything anymore.

When he turned round he saw two people sitting at an old carved wooden desk no more than five meters in front of him. On the left sat a blonde haired woman dressed in a long summer dress with flowers in her hair. On the right, a man with dark hair and a goatee dressed in a black suit. They both looked at him for a few seconds without saying a word. Without saying anything the blonde woman smiled sadly and shook her head, as the dark-haired man snarled and looked angrily back at him.

Isaac lifted his head off the table. He was back at the library, but it was how it should be. How it was before the storm. The sun had come out and was shining brightly through the large windows.

‘Holy shit’ he said as he walked over to a large window ‘What the fuck am I on? Was I dreaming? ‘

Isaac turned round and saw someone in his chair. Some rude fucker was actually asleep in his chair, slumped over his books. As he got closer he noticed two things that he would never forget. Firstly, that the body’s eyes were locked in a frozen deathly stare, and secondly that the body’s eyes were his.

***

If you want to read more of the flash fiction I’ve written, you can check out a whole page here.

4 Comments

  1. Comment by Mr Urban Spaceman:

    Pretty neat little story, and a great way of working that pesky cube into it! (I’ve been amazed at the wonderful things people have been doing with that cube. I purposely avoided it because I thought it would be difficult to address.) When Isaac got to that desk on the beach, I had a suspicion about how it would end for him. Have you given any thought to who those people actually were? The first thing I thought was ‘Maat’, but you may have had other ideas when you wrote this.

    Two things I note, which I hope you’ll find constructive. I notice you say ‘Isaac’ a lot. Quite a lot. Um, so much so that it’s rather repetitive. I think that, since Isaac is the only one taking any action, it’s not necessary to keep telling us his name, especially when there’s only been a sentence or two since we last read it.

    Also, I noticed that sometimes you snuck in words of the present tense (…this is why he IS the last person…) yet most of your storytelling was in the past continuous tense. Whilst it didn’t ruin your story, it made me consciously look out for similar instances of it, detracting a little from the action (my inner editor pestering me, alas).

    Really enjoyable story, though! A great ending that just begs for more answers.

    • Comment by Jim Franklin:

      You’re certainly on the right lines. In my mind those two people were the incarnations of good and evil, presiding over where the recently deceased go. The kind smiling woman was sad because she couldn’t allow him into heaven while the dark man was angry he lost out on yet another soul in hell. They couldn’t let him in their domains so he was doomed to walk the earth as a ghost. A least that’s where my head was, I’ll be interested to know what other people thought.

      Yep, your comments are definitely constructive. The tense thing is something I keep doing, and it seems no matter how many times I check a few always seem to slip through. I think my inner-editor needs to take some lessons from yours :)

      I’ll run through and check the tenses and Isaac occurrences again. Thanks

  2. Comment by jreinmiller:

    These were the same items I got for my story so it was great seeing someone come up with something completely different from them.

    I especially liked the descriptions of the storm and the destruction it caused. It felt very intense.

    I agree with Spaceman’s comments on tense, but I thought they were pretty minor, and didn’t detract too much.

    A couple minor suggestions I’ll make, if I may (or you can completely ignore them). I’d add a few more words on why he needs to be an undertaker, and I’d try and hide the cause / seriousness of the headache a bit more. Any time I see a character have some problem then give it an “oh, but it’s probably fine” I assume that it is not fine at all. But that’s just my two cents.

    Overall I thought the story was quite strong and I enjoyed reading it.

    • Comment by Jim Franklin:

      Thanks for your comments, and I can’t argue on any of them. :)

      I guess I did beat the reader around the head with the obvious stick in regards to the headaches. I’ll have to look into adding a little more subtlety with my cliches.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

So what do you think?

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