Every year I set myself a challenge; to write thirty one flash fiction stories and post one a day for the month up to the Winter Solstice. This year I’m using the three word codes from what3words as inspiration (this follows on from my Three Metre Stories project). I post them on my Facebook page each day, but you can find each week’s stories here too.
The hall was full of smoke and magenta dust, choking the diners as they shovelled in food from the feast. Figs in aspic with a hint of saffron sat on silver platters next to quail eggs drowning in truffle sauce, each dish tainted with the settled dirt of centuries.
Malin leant against the door watching the scene play out, the diners repeating the same actions again and again. Behind her the rest of the team waited in the tunnel, trying to avoid the stagnant water dripping between the stones.
“The food looks good,” someone said. The acoustics warped all voices and Malin did not turn to see who spoke.
It did look good. Supplies had run out three days earlier, their progress slowed by the need to stop and vomit poison from their stomachs after surviving on any water they could find.
“We can’t go in,” she said, pressing the meniscus separating them from the food glistening with juice and grease.
Inside the hall a server walked around the table pouring wine straight into the waiting mouths.
Malin heard them running before they got past her and breached the barrier. There was a sucking sound like bone emptied of marrow. Pushed against the algae covered wall she watched one after another of her team enter the hall of dust and feasting, and she watched one after another take their place amongst the never dead, gluttoned on food that anchored them to a place they would never leave.
When the landlord showed them around the apartment the accommodation was frozen in a moment of perfection. Everything was freshly cleaned, the carpets dry and free of mildew.
Ben ran his finger through the condensation and drew a moist circle on the buckled floorboards. Of course the landlord didn’t disclose the windows never shut properly, or that the heater leaked carbon monoxide in the bedrooms.
With practiced fingers, Ben knotted the hair into a tight plait and placed it in the centre of the circle. The ant infestation was easy to deal with once they found the rotting food in the cupboard. The cockroaches? Not so much.
From his pocket Ben took out the mummified mouse and laid it on top of the stolen hair. The words were old ones. Family ones. Not his language, but they felt right upon his tongue. The creature that appeared was small and shimmered. Part rodent. Part rot. He leant down and whispered a name to the thing, watched as it chewed the hair, then shuddered through the floor to the landlord’s apartment below.
Sitting in the mould darkened lounge, Ben turned up the stereo and ignored the screams coming up from the floor below.
Callie wasn’t interested in the festivity around her. She sat in the middle of the park as people danced to the bass erupting from the ramshackle sound system.
She wasn’t interested in the spliffs or the spirit paths that circled her, each marking the grass in their own way.
Eyes closed, she watched the people find their steps, find their euphoria, strands of energy glistening like dried fat in a cast iron pan.
The sun went down and the energy went up like they feasted on darkness and noise, but that was wrong. There was only one person feasting in the park.
Callie let her body grow rigid. Let the hunger search out the nourishment and with her unseen jaws chewing the joy from the night air she fed until every part of her was distended, not caring about the effect on those celebrating around her. They were food, nothing more.
Maybe it had been a bad idea to come out. House parties were not Sophie’s thing but Frank had convinced her. She did not like to go where people were, but the house was familiar, as were some of the faces.
Though she didn’t normally go to events, she knew that most people would gather in the kitchen. Not this one. Everyone was out on the pavement, watching the cars race up and down the street.
She sipped her warm lager and watched the drivers reset the race, Frank in one car, and someone she did not know in the other. On some signal Sophie did not see the cars took off, careering down past the houses toward the temporary finish line.
Even at a distance she saw Frank’s car cross the chalk line second. He would be in one of his moods tonight. She took a mouthful of the now sour lager to hide the tremour in her hand and kept on drinking.
The room was in complete darkness apart from the glowing screen, segments of images flittering through the light.
Bernard was on his thirteenth cup of coffee, and he was sure by this point that his spirit was pure caffeine. The film was nearly finished but the sequence in front of him was testing his resolve.
He stopped the playback, a moment of explosion held in place. A flower of rubble and fire paused in blooming. He nodded in satisfaction, and let the film run on, picking up his phone and dialling the number.
Of course turning off the CCTV system so he had the only footage meant that the emergency services hadn’t spotted the bomb being placed, but the damage had been minor. Only a couple of casualties. Nothing life threatening. He waited for the call to connect.
“Hello, rolling news? I have some footage you might be interested in.”
The dunes had long reached from the coast to the city, engulfing rich and poor alike. The sands did not care about wealth as they filled throats and abraded eyes to blindness.
Some thought they could climb the towers and outpace the coming wave. The sand eroded concrete and metals alike, until the tower blocks and tourist hotels fell in lazy spirals to crumble and shatter. Trapped those who strived for air under rubble where they watched the sands accumulate even as the sand of their lives ran out.
For three days and three nights the beach found its way far inland. When the sun blazed in the sky on the fourth morning the city was silent apart from the whistling erosion of bone and building.
Frank had visited the lake many times but never seen it so shallow. Every trace of the former village showed through the thick cracked mud, shattered windows coated in pondweed and dead fish.
Sitting down he rested his hands on his knees and watched the last of the water evaporate in the rising heat of the day.
He remembered running around the now drowned streets, and the rituals held as the sun set, the songs and screams echoing against the shuttered houses. He remembered the glances at those whose hands still wore the dried blood of those tipped into the graves of others. Foremost he remembered it as a place of secrets where everything was known and nothing was said.
He stared at the cracked mud and hoped the water would rise again soon to drown the empty streets once more.