Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flash Challenge Day

Here's my entry for Patti Abbott's Reginald Marsh flash challenge. For the rest of the links go here http://pattinase.blogspot.com/ The link to the picture I used is in the last post. Loads of great reading on the web today!!

A WHISTLE AND A PRAYER
By Sandra Seamans

Gilli's eyes never ceased scanning the landscape as she chiggered her way through the unfamiliar territory of the East Tenth Street Jungle. Her small, lithe body sliding easily into the shadows and crevices of the old buildings that rested in sagging heaps on the streets. Rusted steel frames pushing against the black sky were the only proof that skyscrapers had once towered over the city.

She tried to remember the person she'd been before the world crumbled around them. Beautiful. Proud. Intelligent. At the top of her game. She'd had it all, and still did. She was a survivor. But without Christine? The wind carried the sound of voices to her and Gilli slipped into an open seam in the rubble, waiting for the mob to pass. Her mind drifted back to that last conversation with Christine.

"I hate this place, hate living in this...this rabbit warren," said Christine, dramatically sweeping her arm in a large arc around their underground home. "I can't stand being buried alive, not being able to breathe fresh air or walk on green grass."

Always the actress, thought Gilli as she watched Christine pace around the room. Gilli loved that their home was hidden deep in the rubble of an old apartment building. She’d been a creeper, an urban explorer, in her before life, a skill that kept the shelves stocked and their bellies full. She’d found the large open space complete with storage lockers while creeping underground scavenging for supplies. Gilli used the contents of the lockers to create a comfortable living area for them. Christine had been thrilled with their new home back then. But the last two years had worn down her spirits. She wanted her dreams back.

"Shall we rearrange the furniture?” asked Gilli, trying to lighten the mood.

Christine threw herself on the couch beside Gilli. She smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes.

"What I want to know is where are the damn zombies and vampires? Now, those are monsters I could deal with."

"God, Christine, get your head out of the movies. We're living in the real world, with real monsters. The government, the cops, the Army, they’re all gone. We live or die on our own. Which reminds me, I need to go scavenging tonight, we're getting low on supplies."

"You're going to leave me alone?"

"You want to eat don't you?"

"Yes, but I'm also afraid that you'll get trapped inside one of those buildings and never come back. Then what would I do?"

Gilli tried to pull Christine into her arms, but she pushed Gilli away and rose from the couch to start pacing again.

"I'll always come back to you, sweetheart," said Gilli. She laughed, then added, "I'm your Princess Charming, here to fulfill your every desire."

"Very funny. I heard the train whistle again last night. They say the engineer is a preacher, someone you can trust. I want out of the city, Gilli.”

“Ah, the infamous "they" said. How do you know the preacher isn’t a monster and his train whistle just a trap? And what if what's beyond the city is worse?”

“And what if it isn't?”

"We know how to survive here, I won‘t risk our lives on a what if proposition."

"And if I want to risk mine?"

“Do what you want," said Gilli as she gathered up her gear. "I'll be back in a few hours. Anything special you'd like? A lipstick, some perfume, a new dress?"

"You think you can change my mind with a few trinkets? If you loved me, you'd find that train."

Gilli shrugged. "I would if I could, Christine, but that train isn't real. And all the wishes in the world won't make it so."

A splash of white paint on the crumbling wall across the street caught Gilli's eye. A white cross on a black locomotive. Faint hope. The promise of a preacher and a train ride out of the city. A fucking fairytale trip away from the horror that haunted the streets.

Tears spilled down Gilli's cheeks. "I never should have left you alone."

The voices faded off into the distance and Gilli slipped out of her hiding space to move deeper into the Jungle. The dregs of humanity lived in this area, preying on anyone who wandered into their domain. The wildest of the wild prowled here. She shivered as she thought of Christine making her way alone through the Jungle. Gilli knew there was little hope of finding her, but she had to make the attempt. Christine was the lifeline that anchored her sanity, kept Gilli from turning into one of the monsters they hid from.

As she cleared the Jungle, a sad wailing whistle filled the air. The fabled locomotive. Gilli wanted to hurry towards the sound, but held herself in check. There were hidden traps everywhere and empty bellies that needed filling.

Sliding in and out of the shadows, Gilli worked her way closer to the source of the whistle. A crippled locomotive rested on a side rail. Going nowhere. The preacher stood in the cab pulling the whistle and leading his congregation in song. The smell of roasting meat filled the air, making Gilli's stomach churn.

When the hymn ended the preacher’s voice rose above the murmuring crowd. "Let us pray. Dear God, we give thanks for this food you so thoughtfully provided. Bless the souls of those who provided the meat for our table. Amen."

Gilli's eyes drifted over the crowd, searching for Christine. She found her, hanging by her feet, the rope tossed over a tree branch, blood draining from the cavity where they'd gutted her. Christine's glazed eyes stared at her, void of dreams. Her empty body nothing more than meat for the masses.

Gilli's gaze riveted on the preacher, taking in every inch of the man, memorizing the face of the man who stole her life. “Soon, Mr. Preacher,” she whispered slipping back into the shadows. “Soon you’ll be tasting a fear your God can’t even begin to imagine.”

10 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow! Your imagination astounds me. Sad. fantastical yet all too possible all at once. Thanks for coming aboard my train.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

You had me at "chiggered her way through..." Great mashup of the two pieces of artwork. (That rrain sketch caught my eye too.) Oh yes, hell is coming for the preacher man. Great story.

John said...

Wow. Like a punch in the stomach those final paragraphs. You so captured that feeling of being lost in squalor, lost in spirit. So many of Marsh's paintings and drawings are like the epitome of urban claustrophobia. The city just descends on everyone and they can do nothing but cram themselves into jumbled masses clinging to each other. Even the beach scenes are filled and crammed with hoards.

Yvette said...

What a sad, desperate story. Such a horrible ending.

I hope Gilli gets her revenge.

So many of Marsh's paintings seem filled with desperation.

sandra seamans said...

Thanks so much, everyone! And riding your train is always a fun trip, Patti. And the destination is always a surprise.

Thomas Pluck said...

A sketch of civilization's descent into madness... well done, Sandra.

Rob Kitchin said...

Marsh's urban realism definitely have a dystopian feel and this story really captures that. False dreams trump trinkets, I guess.

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks, Sandra. You write with such elegance while treating such a grim subject.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Holy shit that's dark. Beautifully done and so haunting.

Anita Page said...

So beautifully written and so powerful, Sandra.