I signed up late last year to be a part of another flash fiction contest: Said Bree’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2018, and this is the first of my attempts at following the prompts.
It’s based on the story that started with ParaDice Point. You don’t need to have read that story to follow this one; this is more involved in the books I’m writing to be published later this year.
Without any further lead-up, here’s today’s story.
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”
― Shirley Jackson,
The Dark Road
Clair Rifkin is the kind of girl you have to talk into things. There’s not much she won’t do, but you’ll never catch her giving in on the first try, and that’s why we used to let her hang out with us. It was fun to watch her flip.
On the outside, she’s quiet and moderately pretty if you get past the dark bags under her eyes and the way her teeth are too crooked to be charming. But on the inside, she’s as dark as those bruise-colored smudges, and when she smiles just right, you can see the points on her mismatched teeth.
So when Clair Rifkin went missing, none of us was surprised.
The people they called in — state cops, though they didn’t look much older than us — asked us a lot of weird questions. They started with where we were, what we were doing. We told them the truth, more or less: We dared her to go hang out at a spot the locals said were haunted. We didn’t believe the stories, so instead of waiting for her like we said we would, we went with those same locals — cute boys with thick Southern accents, who could blame us? — to a barn party.
We were back in a couple of hours at our hotel. No Clair. We figured she got mad at us for ditching her, but she had been angrier before and still came back. The teacher was the one who insisted on calling the cops, and after we told our stories to the podunks who came first, we had to tell it all over to the Rangers.
One of the Rangers was tall and skinny; the other was shorter and stockier. The guy might have been cute if he didn’t look so much like a praying mantis. The girl had glasses, but you could tell she didn’t care, so we let the nerd goggles slide without comment.
The guy looked to the girl when we mentioned the rumors we had heard about the spot we dropped off Clair. If I didn’t know any better, I would say he believed us — that he actually believed in ghosts. The girl shook her head and kept asking us questions.
Had Clair been acting strangely? We couldn’t say; she was always strange.
Had she been eating much more or less than normal? We told them what we told everyone — we’re all on diets. We’re teenage girls, duh.
Did she report a foul taste in her mouth or pain behind her eyes? No.
Pinpricks or a sensation of being touched when no one was around? No, but I could tell at this point that they thought she was nuts. I tried to explain, we all did, but they just kept up with the weird questions.
Did we see anything flying around where we dropped her? No, unless you count the mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds.
Did any of us experience cold spots where we dropped her? No, but none of the rest of us got out of the truck. We had chosen the boys we wanted to spend time with, and we weren’t getting out to hold Clair’s hand.
They kept going until finally Trinity told them the name of the boy who picked us up, and the girl handed me her card. She asked us to call if we thought of anything else, but we both knew we wouldn’t. As much fun as Clair was to mess with, she was killing our vacation, and she wasn’t going to ruin any more of it than she already had.
A couple of days later, those two state cops came back. They looked like they hadn’t slept in days. Their uniforms were torn in places, and the girl had streaks of blood on hers. They brought Clair with them. I came out to hug her, but she pushed me away and told me she didn’t want to see any of us anymore. Then she went into the room with the teachers, who all gave us dirty looks, while the teacher in charge signed their forms and promised to look after Clair.
I haven’t seen Clair much since then, though sometimes the rest of us talk about how much fun we had that night with those boys from Texas. Trinity was the only one that let one of them get past third base, but we can still all say they were more fun than the boys at our school. I heard recently that Clair is supposed to be moving to Texas. She has a relative there — an old, unmarried aunt — who wants to see her. We’ll be glad to have her gone.
Ever since that night in Texas, those bags under her eyes are gone, her skin cleared up, and even her teeth look almost cute. Boys fight over her. I don’t know what happened to her on that road out in the dark, but sometimes I wish I had been the one out there who was changed forever.
The story continues later this year with my supernatural cozy mystery series starring Amara and Rylan Gray.