Our flash fiction challenge at Terrible Minds this week is pretty simple: write about “an unexpected guest”. Hope you enjoy!
As the waves swept sand and pebbles away in a retreating tide, it occurred to Colm that he had already reached the end of the beach, further passage blocked by the twenty-foot high Wall of Rocks. He glanced back towards the way he had come. The deserted beach was eerily silent. The sun had almost set behind the pink and purple clouds. A seagull cried somewhere unseen.
He knew it was time to get his shit together. If he could not devise an exit strategy, his only exit would be via a quick plunge into the deep blue ocean, feet encased in cinderblocks and cement, mafia style. And, though he’d thought for hours about the best way to remove himself from his current situation, his employers had every means in the world at their disposal.
There was no getting away.
But he had no desire to sleep with the fishes, as they say.
Colm turned back to the rock wall. He could always try to climb it, but he knew what lay on the other side. It disgusted him almost as much as the life he had been leading in recent days.
Colm whipped around to find a small boy standing thirty feet away, a boy with hair so blond that it was nearly white. His piercing blue eyes failed to waver in childlike shyness.
“Do you seek redemption?” The child stepped forwards.
“Christ, no,” Colm muttered. “Where’re your parents, kid?”
“Do you seek restitution?”
“Nope. What do you think you’re trying to sell me? Look, I ain’t signing up for your religion.”
The child ignored him. “Do you seek peace?”
Colm smiled. “Well, a little peace would be nice. How ‘bout you skedaddle? I really can’t think with you trying to save me with prayer.”
The boy pointed at him. “See your nose?”
“How can I see my nose?” He felt it anyway. His hand returned with a coating of blood. Fucking nosebleeds were starting again.
“Your blood is tainted,” the boy said.
Though it shouldn’t have, this last phrase made his heart skip a beat and his stomach drop. Adrenaline fired prematurely.
“What are you talking about?” Colm demanded. The boy continued to point. Colm wiped his nose once more, but this time his hand returned coated with a black substance. “What is this shit?”
“Do you remember me?”
Colm stared at the boy. He drew a blank. He’d never seen the kid a day in his life.
“No, you don’t,” the boy answered. “That’s because you killed my mother when I was still in her womb.”
A flashback struck him. She’d been sitting in her kitchen, sipping hot chocolate. She’d been dead before the bullet had exited her skull. But this had been six years ago. He supposed an emergency caesarean section might have saved the infant’s life.
“You’re right,” the boy replied. “I absorbed her when she died. I am me, but I am her, too.”
Colm shook his head and wiped his bloody nose on his shirtsleeve. The resulting stain was black. “Kid, look, I don’t have time for this. Unless you have an idea that’ll save me from being killed by my boss, I don’t want to talk to you. Got it?”
“Your boss is very powerful,” the boy replied.
“Yeah, what do you know about it, kid? You ever met my boss? I gave my life to him, served him the best way I know how, could be in his position if he weren’t who he is… And now, all I want is peace and quiet, a life without checking over my shoulder every thirty seconds. Can you give me that?”
He turned towards the rock pile and considered climbing it once more. Even if life on the other side was as disgusting as he thought it would be, he would have a fresh start there, where no one knew him for the demon he was.
Colm had heard whispers of the world on the other side. There was no returning from it, which was part of the torture. They said that once you crossed the rocks, you became a slave. To what, he had no idea. After all, these were rumours. How could they be fact if no one had ever returned? The truth was, despite his uncertainty, he was ready to plunge into the unknown.
“Your thirty seconds are up,” the boy said.
Turning in his spot, Colm faced the boy.
The kid was pointing a goddamned pistol at Colm’s chin.
“What the fuck’re you doing, kid?”
“I was searching for you,” the boy replied, “and your boss found me before I found you. We worked out a bit of a deal.”
Colm stepped backwards.
“You don’t want to kill me, son. Please, put the gun down. I’m begging you. I’m sorry for killing your ma. It was only orders.”
“I’m under orders, too.”
Colm glanced back at the rock wall. He could climb it, but how fast? It was a child with a gun for God’s sake. Even if the kid even had the strength to steady the weapon during the kickback, who was to say he’d have good aim?
Instead of waiting to find out, he broke into a mad dash up the rocks while gunfire blasted around him. Bullets ricocheted, blowing stone chips into his face.
He was halfway to the top of the pile when he had counted eight rounds.
Colm continued to climb.
When he reached the top, he felt a bullet pierce the back of his left calf, and he jumped off the wall, disregarding his safety to save his life.
The bullet wound agonized as though fire ravaged his body. When he peered up at his surroundings, he saw nothing but black and a white figure before him.
As the figure grew clearer, his heart stopped in his chest.
“You?” Colm cried. “It was this place all along?”
His boss extended a hand. “Welcome to Hell, Colm.”
© Lindsay Mawson 2011