Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Prompt: Time rolls by in an instant

Thanks to Shane Gallagher for permission to use his beautiful image, “After the Fall”!

Willem Simms crept forward on point. His earpiece had conked out with a final burst of static that threatened to shatter his eardrum when the temporal rift rolled over at oh-eight-hundred. Once the fog cleared, the open ground he’d been crossing at the Darwin International Airport was filled with hundred-year old forest growth. He’d lost visual with the rest of his troop and figured he better get to high ground to scout out the area.

The 5th/21st Light Horse Regiment was on recon into Darwin, looking for survivors from the temporal rifts. Willem’s troop was assigned two secondary agendas: determine the naval port and air force base status. Willem himself had a third assignment: determine the status of Arnhem Land. The government had been unable to re-establish anything more than short-range communications since the temporal rifts first opened. Willem was ideally suited to both missions. He was Yolngu, born and raised in Arnhem Land, and he was third generation Royal Australian Navy.

The danger in these missions lay not only in the temporal rifts, which rolled across the countryside like a black fog, but also with the survivalists who had decided these were the end-times and government rule was no longer their concern. The gung-ho radicals tended to shoot first and ask for ID later – they were easy to deal with. The conspirists were harder to gauge – they were so twisted in knots, they didn’t believe anything anybody told them. Including something as simple as, “We’re here to help you,” or “We have food.”

The airport’s traffic control tower had exploded. Willem couldn’t tell whether it was deliberate or not. The end result was the same. Thick vines covered the remains, and he decided to venture toward the RAAF base in search of survivors.

It was almost eleven by the time he reached once-familiar grounds. He came in on Billeroy Road, but nothing looked the same, now covered with the thick vines that seemed the most common hallmark of the temporal shifts. As he neared Birribang Road, he hesitated. He should continue on to the base in search of active operations. And he would. But surely a brief detour in search of an old friend was understandable. And Ian Foster would be useful if Willem could find him.

He turned onto Birribang and stopped cold. He’d never seen a live rift in motion. This one was barely thirty feet ahead of him, moving down the street. The black fog spread across the width of the street and the surrounding buildings. He could barely see through it to the buildings on the far end. Directly in front of him, it cleared enough for him to see the old brick facades and broad windows he remembered so well. The first building in the row was already covered in thick vines, windows long gone, bricks crumbling. Willem watched in horrified fascination as the fog drifted away and the vines poured in as it cleared. He could actually see them growing across the buildings.

The street looked long deserted, until Willem spied someone leaning against the corner of the building on the other side of the street from where he stood. The man wasn’t moving, holding an MP5 across his chest, and wearing a gas mask. Willem shook his head. What good would a gas mask do in a rift?

He moved closer, watching carefully for any movement from the still man or the surrounding buildings. He’d learned from hard experience that these days, every one was guilty until proven innocent. Think otherwise, and you’d be dead in an unguarded instant.

The man groaned and rolled his head. Willem froze, waiting to be seen. The man looked right at him, then around, then back at him. He reached up slowly and pulled off his mask.

Willem’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Ian Foster? Seriously, mate? Where the hell have you been?”

Foster stood, still moving slowly. Still holding the gun close, Willem noted, though still pointing up. He debated lowering his own gun. It was Ian, dammit. If he couldn’t trust him, he may as well pack it in. He lowered his gun. Foster gave him a broad smile and swung his gun slowly down to the ground, avoiding pointing it at Willem.

“Simms, you old bastard. I can’t believe it. I’d ask how long has it been, but I guess that’s a worthless question these days.”

Willem wasn’t sure how much to engage. But he did want to bring in Foster if he could. “Did you just make it through a live rift? You don’t look any older. What’s with the gas mask? And since when did the RAAF start issuing MP5s?”

Foster looked down at his gun. “Ah, well, it’s not exactly standard issue,” he said noncommittally. He walked forward, lifting his left arm in a broad wave, once to the right, once to the left. Willem looked around. “No worries,” Foster said. “If they’d been worried about you, you’d already be dead.”

Dogs in house

Time writing:
~45 minutes, plus research

October word count:


  1. Prompt: Time rolls by in an instant

    “What do you think this was?” Gregory said as he trotted ahead down the grass-lined former street and ducked through an ivy-encrusted doorway.

    “Wait up!” Marcie ran after her younger brother, silently cursing Uncle Bill who had suggested this expedition. _Go check out the ghost town on the island_, he had said. _Your grandparents used to live there._ Uncle Bill had no idea what it was like trying to keep up with an eight-year-old who seemed to attract trouble like the can-opener attracted the cats. What had happened to the only slightly accident-prone little boy that used to tag around after his big sister, and who replaced him with this untameable whirl-wind of destruction? Marcie was sure she had been much more placid when she was his age. She was a teenager now. She should not have to be running after this walking disaster of a boy.

    But she was, guilted into it by the new ‘responsibility’ her fully thirteen years represented. And she had been so eager to be a teenager. She should have grabbed onto childhood with both hands and not let go until forced. This responsibility stuff was crap.

    Gregory’s face popped out an upper window, ivy wrapping about his head and making him look like the Green Man’s son. “You gotta see this!”

    He vanished, with Marcie’s planned cautionary words about upper stories and abandoned buildings having barely wet the saliva on her tongue. She let them die unsaid. She finally reached the doorway and leaned through. “Gregory?” Her tremulous call seemed to soak into the vegetation-lined walls and loamy floor. “Come on out! Didn’t you want to find Gran’s house?”

    No answer. Marcie stepped inside. It was cool, like passing through the hanging plastic strips separating the rainforest display at the zoo from the temperate climate outside. But here she was stepping into, not out of, a jungle. Everything was dim and indistinct; her eyes had not yet adjusted to the low light. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. From the shade-induced cold, she told herself.

    Not from the wavering of the walls in the grainy dimness. Not from the slowly resolving shape that might not look out of place in an actual rainforest jungle. “Gregory!”

    Her panicked cry cut through whatever sound-attenuating properties had eaten her previous words; the wall shivered, and her newly dark-adjusted eyes saw only waving leaves where the ominous shape had or had not been a moment before.

    “You look white as a sheet.” Gregory bounced in a doorway a few yards away. “I said, come on up.” Marcie followed silently, halfway up the stairs before she even thought to wonder about the sturdiness of the steps on which she tread.

  2. Back for a little while, at least! Feeling the need to produce some new text again. This was last night's, but my computer was about out of battery power by the time I was done.

  3. Hey, Anne! Welcome back! Nice characters and great sense of gothic danger :)