Friday, September 12, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge: 'Unquiet'

Chuck Wendig, of the wickedly smart and funny writing blog terribleminds, hosts weekly flash fiction challenges. This week the promt is to write a 500 word half story. Then participants will trade stories and finish them. I'm posting what, an hour and a half before the deadline? Of course I am. 

This is the first time I'm participating. I'm nervousgiddyexcited.
If you'd like to, let me know what you think or offer criticism; I've decided to reopen comments on the blog. Also, gratitude and cookies to Geoff, Freyja, and Nell for encouraging the fictions. 

Away we go:


Silence no longer existed. At its most quiet, the house was a muffled pastiche of breathing rhythms and the percussion of snoring. Beneath, the rushing swoosh of blood and her own heartbeat. The collage of sound fell hard and thick when the child’s suckling finally slowed to a stop. These moments, when her daughter found sleep and released the Mother’s nipple with a soundless little pop, were the Mother’s favorites of each evening.

She’d curl herself around the baby, still and warm, and ease into half-consciousness. And then, inevitably, her muscles would protest their sudden slack and give a full-bodied jerk so hard it would bring a tiny scowl from the baby.

Then the anxious waking would begin. There was the wait between feedings: Two, three hours apart. Then the ugly ritual of not-sleeping repeating for nights on end. She’d lost count of how many concurrent nights she’d spent waking.

In the next room, her husband snored softly. Night like these, the Mother actively loathed him for his ease in sleep. He could doze anytime. If he were still for more than a few minutes, his glasses would slip to the end of his nose and his head would loll to one side. She hated him. She scooted the child away from her, carefully folding the coverlet away from the infant.

She hated the baby too. For the depth of her sleeping, the little feather breaths puffing from tiny lips.

The Mother rose, and swayed in vertigo. She hadn’t eaten in... she couldn’t remember her last meal. Her stomach was a writhing spiked thing, and everything tasted dry and metallic. She was thirsty though, and walked to the kitchen. As she moved, her peripheral vision swam with strange, unsettling shapes. When she looked directly at them, they would skitter to the edges again, taunting her. 

She shuddered. The shapes reminded her of the dark little hallucinations she’d seen everywhere before she’d gone inpatient at the psych department. She had thought of those as evil sylph-crows, though they'd clung to the floors and baseboards more like rats. She hadn’t seen them since stabilizing on medication years ago. Seeing these wicked cousins made her wish again that she could have stayed on her meds with the baby. If nothing else, they’d help her sleep.

The darkness of the room swirled around her, seething with the creatures. Here, without the nursery nightlight, she could look directly at them. They looked like snakes, with ridged spikes all around them and they twisted over and under each other, flitting into and out of existence. They were the ghost colors of after-images—red and green at the same time. 

She closed her eyes for relief, and it worked though it seemed odd that it should. When she opened her eyes, the undulating mass was there again. She set her jaw and filled a glass of water, reminding herself they were insomniac tricks of the eye. She felt ridiculous: A little girl telling herself her scary book was only a story.

She drained her glass and looked up.

One serpent sat on the counter, perfectly still. Its red-green eyes caught no light, but they were fixed directly on her.