Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Prompt: I’ll suck the life right out of you

Jeri shouldered her backpack and zipped her heavy parka against the November wind. Jogging across the empty quad, she steadfastly refused to feel sorry for herself. Instead, she thought about her French Lit paper due two weeks after Thanksgiving, the chaos of the university hospital and the calm of the music library where she alternated afternoon work-study hours, and the heavenly quiet of the dorm with almost all the other students gone for the holiday. She did *not* think about her parents. She did *not* think about her foster families. She did *not* think about The Creep.

She tried not to, anyway. Shifting the backpack, she ducked through the eerily quiet student union to the library complex. The music library was on the back side, basement level. Which would have been dark and dreary if not for the wall of windows that opened up onto the Secret Garden. It was the garden that had drawn Jeri to the university in the first place. They boasted the largest collection by and about Frances Hodgson Burnett, and some enterprising botany student had recreated the Secret Garden for their thesis project years ago.

And now The Creep had ruined the garden for her. No! She refused to let him. It. Her. What she had done. It wasn’t her fault. He’d scared her, tried to mug her when she was leaving the music library after her shift. She didn’t mind walking through the garden in the early dusk – she knew it by heart, and there was plenty of light from the library’s windows, anyway. She was almost to the opposite wall when he’d grabbed her arm and tried to pull off her backpack.

Panicked, Jeri had clenched her left hand around his wrist above her elbow and pushed her right hand against his shoulder and onto his neck. She was only trying to break his hold. To get away. When did his grip fall away from her arm? Why didn’t she let go and run? When he staggered back, why did she push against him. She was so angry, so tired of being afraid. Tired of feeling drained, lethargic.

The rush buzzed through her hands and up her arms. It hit her shoulders and burst through her body like a thunderclap. Her fingers tightened, and he dropped to his knees. He was gaging, or trying to speak, but he couldn’t get the word out. He stared up at her, face pale, eyes wide. She stared in fascination and drew the energy right out of him without thinking.

As he fell onto his back, she pushed down on top of him, wrapping her fingers around his neck, searching for his fluttering pulse. His head dropped onto the frozen ground, and his eyes rolled up and fluttered closed. His mouth opened, and he sighed, a long, quiet sigh, like the last of the breath flowing out of his lungs.

It was the sigh that stopped her. Her mother’s sigh, late at night, rocking Jeri to sleep. Her father’s sigh, as they slept on the couch with the TV still blaring. She jerked her hands away and scrambled backward in a crab walk, stumbling over her backpack in her sudden desperation to get away from him.

She wanted to run. She staggered to her feet, still buzzing, and took a few steps, then faltered. Was he dead? If she left him out here, he would be. She turned back and looked down, afraid to check. She slowly bent over him, searching for any sign of movement, breath. If she touched him again, felt for his pulse, could she pull away again?

His head dropped to the side, and she jumped back. Alive. Reaching in her pocket, she pulled out her cell and slid her finger across the screen. Yes, she did want an emergency call.

“Help,” she whispered. “Please help…”

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing
30 minutes

January word count


  1. Interesting idea. I wasn't sure whether or not the action here was part of a flashback or not. I'm guessing not because of the cell phone in the last couple of lines.

    1. Thanks, Ken, good comments. Yes, on rereading, the tense is confusing. So the Creep's attack is a flashback, up to the end of this segment, Jeri was remembering it as she walked/jogged across the campus on her own. Obviously that needs better clarity, whether it's in verb tense or broken out in some way. I like her and may write some more, so I'll have a chance to improve this :)