Thursday, May 8, 2014

Flash Fiction: Out of Time

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Recently, I agreed to participate in a flash-fiction event hosted by Bluebelle.  I was to write a short story under 1000 words based on the prompt that she gave me:

The door creaked- which was odd, because that door never creaked.

Here is the result of that prompt!  :D  Enjoy!

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Image result for cherry tree public domain

My mind was wandering... sorting out problems which could only be understood in a world of dreams. In my minds eye, I moved through a vague and shadowy landscape, peaceful and quiet... full of memory and musing, fantasy and questions.
Gradually, I felt myself returning to the world of the living... I felt a breeze blow across my face, and a lock of my hair move across the bridge of my nose.
My limbs felt like lead. For a moment, I could not move. My mind was in a fog...
My eyebrows furrowed. I parted my lips and drew in a deep breath. As soon as the cool, sweet air touched my lungs, my body seemed to realize how desperately it needed that air.
Suddenly, I found that my limbs were infused with new energy from that life-giving breath, and I pushed myself up and gasped.
My eyes were encrusted with sleep. I rolled over onto my knees and clawed it away, blinking rapidly as tears came to my eyes. The light streamed down on me, filling my senses with its warmth.
I was beginning to get my bearings. My mind was coming back to me, and I found I could think clearly once more.
I had been sleeping... so deeply, it felt like death. I could not remember what had caused me to sleep in such a manner, nor for how many hours, or days, I had remained in that spot.

Hunched on my knees, I drew several deep breaths before I managed to lift my head. My vision was bleary, and for a moment, my surroundings twisted and turned as though I were looking through marbled glass. When at last my sight cleared, I recognized my surroundings as a green woodland. Tall, majestic trees rose high above me, stretching their graceful limbs toward the sun.
Now I vaguely remembered coming here. I had taken to the forest to traverse the wild, and escape for a few precious hours from the endless monotony of my life in that modest village I called home. But what had transpired on that walk, I could not yet recall.

Rising unsteadily to my feet, I rested my hand on the trunk of the beech that had sheltered me. As the effects of my long slumber began to fade, I realized that I was not far from my home. I could just make out the outlines of the path that would take me to my cottage.
Judging from the position of the sun, I knew that I must have slept all night and woken well into the morning. I could only imagine how worried my sister Sally, seven-year-old brother Jack must be. Sally had likely sent her fiance John for help, and John had likely summoned the entire town. Running my hands through my hair, I hastened back to the cottage to set their minds at ease.

But even as I made my way home, questions echoed loudly in my mind. What had happened to me? What would have caused me to fall asleep so close to home? I recalled carrying my rifle with me. What had become of that?
As I drew near the cottage, I saw smoke rising from the chimney and smelled sausage on the air. A sudden hunger made me vigorous, and anxiously I sprang up the steps and onto the porch. With a bright smile that I hoped would cool my sister's anger over my absence, I flung the door open.
“Good morning, Sally!” I said.
As it swung open, the door creaked loudly- which was odd, because that door never creaked.
The young woman leaning over the stove gave a start, and swung around to face me with wide eyes. My greeting froze in my throat as I saw that she was not my sister. Her blond hair and blue eyes were completely unfamiliar to me. I could not recall seeing her in the village before.

Her mouth open wide in surprise, she fumbled for a moment before giving a shocked outcry. “Excuse me, sir! Who are you?”
I shook my head. “I think I should be asking you that question. Are you a friend of Sally's?” I said with a chuckle.
The woman's brows lowered into a frown. “Sir, I demand to know what you are doing in my house.”
I laughed incredulously. “Oh come on, what's the joke? Where are Sally and Jack? Is John in?”
“I don't know what you're talking about, but if you don't start explaining, I will let the dog loose on you!”
My eyes caught sight of the large wolf-hound watching intently from the hearth. Swallowing, I stepped back, glancing around. Suddenly, I noticed the tall, healthy cherry tree in full blossom through the back window. I froze. That was impossible. I'd only just planted that tree that spring, as a present for Sally. How could it be fully grown?
“I-” I stammered, struggling to find the words. “I'm Rip! Rippald van Winkle? I live here with my sister Sally and my little brother Jack...”
I swayed on my feet, overwhelmed with the revelation of the cherry tree. The implications... how long did I sleep?
So disoriented was I that I barely noticed the woman calling for her husband. Her voice was shaking, much as my own hands were trembling with confusion.
A man appeared in the doorway. “Mary? What's wrong?” he asked his wife.
“Jack...” She whispered, pointing in my direction.
As I looked up to meet the eyes of this new man, I nearly fainted. I would have thought I was looking into the mirror. His face was pale, and his dark hair was in disarray as he beheld me in utter shock.
“Rip...?” he whispered hoarsely. “Is it you?”

I did not hear what he said next. My legs crumpled beneath me as I sank to the floor. The world was going black... I was fainting... fainting...

How long did I sleep? 

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-Rayne Speryll


  1. That was really cool, Rayne. Quite creative.

  2. What a creative twist on the prompt! You have such a rich, descriptive style - I felt the atmosphere of this story almost instantly. I appreciate that you didn't rush through the opening 'scene' to the punch line- but really lingered on each element of Rip's awakening.
    I had a couple of thoughts to offer.
    -You might want to clarify how much younger his brother Jack is. I pictured them a few years apart - so I was caught off guard by their reuniting at the end, and unsure whether it was actually the same Jack at all. (My first thought was one of Sally's great, great, grandchildren.) This might just be me, of course!! :)
    -Another thing I noticed, was when Rip chuckled upon being confronted with the strange woman. It seemed like a strange reaction, when I was already thinking, 'oh no something is WRONG!' :) The person in a situation is often the slower to react, but it did stand out to me, so I thought I would mention it.
    -There were also two little wording issues. In this sentence.
    "Rising unsteadily to my feet and rested my hand on the trunk of the beech that had sheltered me." And this one... "The light streamed down on my, filling my senses with its warmth."
    Thanks for sharing this, Rayne! I enjoyed your retelling of the famous tale...and it definitely made me identify more than I ever had with Rip Van Winkle. How sad to fall asleep, but even harder after you've woken up! :)

  3. Thanks for the critique!
    I noticed those two wording issues last night... it looks like I missed some words and inserted others in my hurry to finish the story. :)
    I wondered if I should clarify Jack's age. For the sake of keeping the story to 1000 words, I omitted the information, but I'm sure I could find a way to effectively include it. :D

    Thank you so much for your compliments! I'm very glad that you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!

  4. That was really good, Rayne. I found it very rich and descriptive, and you did a good job keep it at a thousand words. :) Only thing I noticed was this sentence here:

    "I could only imagine how worried my sister Sally, seven-year-old brother Jack must be."

    It would have sounded better if the word "and" was in the middle between Sally and seven. Other than that, though, it was great.

  5. Fascinating! :-D
    Oh, and I almost forgot to say. Nominated you for the Liebster Award. Congrats! :-)

  6. I know I've taken forever to get back to you on this, and I'm really sorry! :( But I'm here now! I wasn't expecting it to be Rip Van Winkle's story, and so I really enjoyed that surprise! And, as other' have mentioned, you do have some excellent descriptions, like the trees in the forest. I felt that you used too much telling at the very beginning, though. And maybe that's not really "telling", but that's what it felt like to me. I wasn't placed in Rip's head from the get-go. And though, like Olivia, I like the time you took for him to wake up, it felt kind of jerky for me. It may have been the vocabulary you chose to use. I love large vocabulary, but words like "infused" and "revelation" didn't totally fit the story.

    Don't get me wrong, though: the story concept is brilliant! :) And I think you've created a wonderful, mysterious back story for a well-known character that I, alas, don't know much about. I'm curious why he slept so long!

    1. Oh, and one other thing: I believe I told you to start your story with the prompt. As I said, I enjoyed the story. You just didn't do what I asked you to. :/ I just wanted you to be aware of that for next time. :)

    2. And it was supposed to be 800 words or fewer... You don't have to publish these two comments: I just wanted to make you aware of it. Please don't think I'm being mean, because I'm not trying to. I just wanted to make sure you realized what I actually said when I gave you your prompt. :)

    3. Oh, sorry, Bluebelle! I must have gotten confused. Olivia gave me a prompt by mistake, and I must have gotten the instructions mixed up. Had I remembered your specifications, the story would likely have turned out very differently. Still, I do like this version. Maybe some other time I'll do the prompt the way you had originally instructed. :)

      Anyway, I'm glad you liked the story. Thanks for the critique! And don't worry about the delay in commenting. I know how busy life can get sometimes. :)