It was a long weekend completing the NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction writing challenge for the second time, but rewarding too.
I will be writing a blog post soon, about my experience of the competition so far, but we’ve again had confirmation earlier than expected so I am publishing my story now and will let you all know about the process later.
Any feedback is welcomed and thank you in advance if you do decide to read it.
The challenge? A deadline of 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts (I was group 15):
So here you have it, my first round entry for the NYCM Flash Fiction Challenge 2015. ANd please note, I have never attempted suspense before!
By Donna-Louise Bishop
Synopsis: A seasoned hitchhiker, Texas-born Belle, may have just made her first mistake. Will she get to her final destination alive or has ol’ Bucky got the upper hand?
The sound of rain on the truck, like bullets colliding with tin cans, was no more a comfort than the continuous fingering of the dog-eared photograph in her hand.
Belle had been hitching rides for as long as she could remember. When her momma was alive she was always being chastised for it, but Belle never did care what she thought. Tonight though, something was off.
A true Texan, Belle couldn’t stand the rain and the downpour had distracted her. Jumping up into the truck’s cab with country-girl ease, she forgot to check the license plate. She’d even missed the word “moving” crudely painted on its side. With no clues as to whom she was sitting next to, she took little comfort from the toothless stranger’s grin.
“Not a nice evenin’ for a looker like you to be about eh?” She rolled her eyes. Like she hadn’t heard that tired line before.
“Uh huh, so they tell me.”
Over the next thirty minutes the duo talked through the usual hitchhiker questions. Etiquette dictated that names were asked – but not always answered – final destinations discussed, reasons for the journey touched upon and Belle’s least favourite question: “Do y’all have family out over yonder then?”
“I sure hope so,” she replied.
“Well ol’ Bucky will get you as far as he can right quick.” His gums gleamed as the light from his dashboard bounced off the saliva coating them.
Ol’ Bucky was a nice enough soul but what really unnerved Belle was the strange reoccurring motion of his arm. His hand kept leaving the wheel to reach down beside him, checking something was there. Easily accessible and ready.
Everyone knew truckers this way travelled loaded, so that didn’t bother her, but hiding a gun which was obviously there made her uneasy.
“So Bucky, why’d they call you Bucky?”
“Ain’t it obvious darlin’?” He grinned at her again before pointing to his empty mouth. “It’s these here bad teeth!”
Belle couldn’t resist a small smile at his poor joke, but as his hand moved down to his side again she felt her unease return.
“Y’all funny.” She decided to play nice for now.
“Bet you get loads of truckers pick you up.”
“Sure’nuff, this ain’t my first rodeo. Don’t normally go this far though but I gotta be somewhere special – folks waitin’ for me.” Belle hoped her lie would make him think she’d be missed if anything happened.
“Not very safe in these here parts though. Truckers don’t normally drive this way in the evenin’.”
There it was again, his hand reaching down. Belle felt a prick of sweat sting under her armpits.
“’Specially not tonight. They’ll be havin’ a conniption fit in all this rain. Won’t be a soul ‘bout ‘till mornin’ I reckon. Watcha say Bella?”
“Belle. It’s just Belle.”
“Uh huh, pretty name for a pretty girl. I once knew a Belle, lovely little thing she was.”
He slowly brought his hand back up to the wheel.
“Lovely little thing,” he mumbled to himself. “I reckon I messed her up good an’ proper though…”
“Watcha got down there Bucky?”
“Dangit, now don’t you get all worked up for nothin’.”
“I betcha your momma called you Belle because you were such a pretty thing right? A proper southern Belle ain’tchya?”
A fat, hot tear left ol’ Bucky’s eye and glistened in the darkness as it made its journey through the stubble on his face. Belle sunk her nails into the material of the seat, contemplating her next move.
“Pretty, just like she was. Never wanted to hurt h–”
As Bucky moved his hand down by his side one final time, Belle knew this might be the last chance she got to save herself.
She grabbed the wheel, sticky with sweat and damp, and yanked it sharply to the right. She managed to hold on to a handle within the truck’s cab as the vehicle shifted all of its weight off the road and into a tree.
Belle managed to keep her eyes open long enough to see Bucky’s lips mouth her name.
* * *
In her unconsciousness she dreamt about her daddy. It had been fourteen years since she last saw his face. If her six-year-old self had known that at the time then she would have paid more attention.
She remembered he didn’t smile much but in her dream, he beamed. She ran into his arms and he held her like he would never let go.
Belle wanted to stay in his embrace, where it was warm and everything was okay, but the Belle outside her dream was calling her back. If she wanted to see her daddy again she needed to wake up.
* * *
Bucky was dead. The colour of his skin would have been the giveaway if it weren’t for the tree branch impaled through his chest.
Belle cursed and raised a palm to her throbbing head. The only way out of the cab was by squeezing under the branch and out of the driver’s now open door. As she manoeuvred her way around his dead body, trying not to touch him, she saw Bucky had died with his hand by his side, holding onto his gun.
Except it wasn’t a gun.
The back of ol’ Bucky’s fingers rested on a home-knitted goose. Grubby from years of travelling, its neck flopped backwards revealing a stitched-on flower above a faded name.
Like the first brown leaf falling from an autumnal branch, officially declaring the death of summer, Belle let the photograph in between her fingers float down to the wet ground. In it, her daddy is holding her chubby toddler hand and looking as she clings on to a cuddly toy goose with the name Belle stitched above a small pink rose.
Her daddy’s face is almost completely covered by a straw hat, except for two buck teeth protruding out the front of his mouth as he smiles down at his daughter.