Vintage Ice: Part 2

This is part 2 of an interactive web serial. At the end, there are two options from which to choose. Vote in the comments to ensure the story continues.Read Vintage Ice: Part 1 here.

Hospitality

What sort of person has a scorpion-infested, concrete coffin sunken in their floor? What did you tell guests, “Oh, it’s fun for parties?”

I looked up at the handsome stranger crouching above me. He offered me his airbrush-tanned hand. “Did you want to stay in there longer or would you like to come out now?”

Was he serious? Were there people who wanted to be buried alive with scorpions?

My mind was a live-wire of sarcastic landmines, but I managed to keep my mouth shut. I had no idea who he was, where I was, or how I came to be there.

Worst of all, I didn’t know who I was either, only that he’d called me Alexandra.

I grasped his hand, and he pulled me out of the pit. Then, he replaced the lid and rolled the carpet back into place.

Well, that’s convenient. No need to explain what can’t be seen.

“Would you like a drink?” He walked over to the bar in the corner, off to the right.

I stood and scanned the room for anything familiar. Books filled the shelves on either side of the fireplace before me. There was a tall, raised-panel set of double doors to my left and another expanse of bookshelves lining the wall behind me. The room was a large study with twelve-foot ceilings and intricate woodwork. It was the sort of room you’d expect to find in an old mansion.

“You look more disheveled than the last time you went into that pit. If no one has found any evidence of a hidden vault in all these years, then it’s doubtful one ever existed.” He held out a short glass filled with a clear liquid, offering me a drink. “I don’t know why that thing wasn’t filled in long ago, really, it’s so bizarre.”

I took the glass and gently swirled the clear contents, watching as if it would somehow reveal the answers I needed.

“Did you want something other than water? A coke, perhaps?” Faint traces of a southern drawl laced his words.

He seemed to genuinely care, but some of what he said made no sense. Even if there was a hidden vault, why would anyone go down there without getting rid of the scorpions first? And what did he mean before when he asked me if I had learned my lesson?

My eyes met his. “No.”

The doors to my left opened. A tall, curvy brunette with large, dark round eyes entered. “Oh, Drake, you found her.” She said, each word enunciated with precision and delicacy.

She sashayed towards me and clasped both of my shoulders, a look of concern on her poised features. “Darling, we were so worried when you didn’t join us for dinner.”

Were she and the handsome stranger married? Was this their mansion?

“She was in the pit again, Nina. I heard her banging on the door when I came into the study to make a phone call. She had trapped herself inside.” Drake turned to me. “I hope you learned your lesson. You really should stay out of there. I hate to think what might have happened if we hadn’t found you in time. Besides,” one corner of his mouth lifted in a half-smile. “who knows what sort of bugs you’ll find in there.”

“Scorpions.”

“What?” He asked.

“Scorpions. That’s what’s down there. They were crawling all over me.”

“Scorpions? In this house?” Nina gasped, laying a hand over her heart.

Drake’s brow furrowed. “You weren’t bitten, were you?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Drake retrieved a flashlight from the desk in front of the windows, rolled the carpet back, and pried the square door open. “If there are scorpions in here, we need to take care of that before they find their way into other parts of the house.” He shined the light into the hole. “I don’t see anything.” He leaned over further, dipping his head inside to shine the light into the far corners. “There’s nothing in here. Are you sure you saw scorpions?”

How was that possible? I saw the scorpions plain as day. It was one of the few things I knew to be true. Were they messing with me? “Yes. I’m sure.” The room spun and my body swayed.

Nina grabbed the glass of water from my hand and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. “Are you ok, Alexandra?”

“A little woozy. My head is pounding.” I rubbed the tender spot just above my ear. Something crusty was tangled in my hair. I pulled my hand away and found bits of dried blood. “I must have hit my head.”

“Here, sit down.” She steered me to the couch in front of the fireplace, just beyond the edge of the rug. I lowered myself down and leaned over to rest on the pile of pillows at one end.

Drake put the flashlight back in the desk and opened another drawer. He pulled out a bottle of pills and came over to the couch, holding out a hand with two small white capsules. “Take these for your headache.”

You Decide

What happens next? Comment A or B.

A: Accept.
B: Refuse.

The next installment will be written based upon the choice with the most votes.


Vintage Ice (Part 1)

This interactive thriller is an experiment, a complete departure in process and genre.

 I have no idea how the story will end, only how it begins and the events that came before. You, dear reader, will help decide the direction it takes. 

At the end of each post, there will be an opportunity to determine which path the young lady will follow. Vote in the comments to ensure the story continues.

A Dark Place

I shivered and drew my arms to my sides. So cold. It was like standing on the New England coastline just before the first snowfall. Frigid dampness permeated the air. Except, I was face-down on a hard, grainy surface that was sucking all the heat from my body. And there was a sharp pain inside my ear. My head throbbed.

When had I been to the New England coastline?

Click. Click. Click-scratch.

The sound grated in my ear, increasing in volume as the source drew closer. The smell of decaying leaves filled my nostrils. I rubbed the ground below my fingertips, half-expecting soil, and was surprised to discover concrete.

Click. Click. Click-scratch.

What was that sound? I sucked in a quick breath and opened my eyes. But the scene was devoid of light. Darkness mocked me.

Click. Click. Click-scratch.

I strained my muscles, struggling to lift myself off the ground. The pounding in my head set off a wave of nausea, forcing me back down. The clicking sound multiplied, surrounding me.

Click-click-scratch. Click-click-scratch.

Dozens of needles pricked my fingers and toes. Converging and covering my body. As the scratching and shuffling drowned out the fevered clicking sounds. I tensed. Jaw clenched. Air trapped in my lungs. Something was crawling all over me.

I fought to rise again. The shuffling sound became angry. Stabbing, burning pain ignited. My neck. My limbs. My feet. It was like being stabbed by flaming ice picks.

I screamed. “Get off! Get off! Get off!”

I shook the creatures off of me. The pounding in my skull intensified. I swayed. My stomach lurched. A gush of bile rose in my throat, spewing onto the concrete. It splattered across my bare feet. The clickers scattered.

I stretched my arms out, feeling all around me. More concrete to the right and left. Behind and in-front seemed to be empty space. Where was I? Was this normal?

The wood ceiling was only a few inches above my head. I pushed against it and felt it give a little.

Please, let this be a way out.

I gathered my strength and shoved the wood ceiling upward. It popped open along one edge. Light peeked through.

My heart fluttered. I reached to open it further, but a set of long, tan fingers wrapped around the edge and pulled it open.

I shielded my eyes and squinted against the harsh light pouring in behind the crouching stranger. Woozy, I swayed again. A face came into focus as my eyes slowly adjusted. Dark blonde hair, square jaw, chiseled features – a classically handsome man somewhere in his mid-thirties. He was wearing a blue oxford shirt, dark slacks, and loafers.

He smiled and I felt myself smiling back.

“Have we learned our lesson, Alexandra?”

I tilted my head. Who was Alexandra and what lesson?

I glanced around the concrete cell. Was he the reason I was in this hole with dead leaves and…

Click. Click. Click-scratch.

My eyes widened.

Scorpions!

You Decide

What happens next? Comment A or B.
A: Go along with him for now and find out what she can.
B: Take her chances and fight back now.
The next installment will be written based upon the choice with the most votes.

Continued – Vintage Ice: Part 2.


Steampunk Circus

*This flash fiction story was originally published on Endless Press’ website in January 2018 as runner-up for their Realm Makers scholarship contest.*

Late! It seemed as though I’d never get there, every hallway longer than the last. I only needed to travel down nine floors, cross the lobby, and I would be at Realm Makers.

Around the corner, the elevator waited. It arrived a moment after I pressed the button, packed with clowns. Their costumes various combinations of shirts, dresses, and one-piece suits in black and white patterns paired with black vests, trousers, tutus, or bustiers. Some wore top hats. Others sported dark bomber caps.

There was no way I was getting in that elevator. How would I even fit?

The tallest clown stood in the middle. His brightly colored red wig poked out from around the aviator goggles on his head. He reached out and honked his horn at me. “Guess, you’ll have to get the next one.” The door started to close. “Remember, kids; reading is fun.”

After two more elevators full of clown passed, I gave up waiting and squeezed into one. I exited into the lobby. It looked like the backstage of a techno-punk circus. The smell of cotton candy and popcorn saturated the air. Clowns were everywhere.

Spotting a bellhop in a red uniform near the conference hall entrance, I pushed my way through the crowd. “Excuse me, where are the Realm Maker sessions being held?”

“Sorry. We had to move them offsite.” He pointed to a tinted glass door, trimmed in brushed chrome. “Take the side door. Outside, you will find the complimentary transportation we have arranged for you.”

“Thank you.” I exited, unprepared for what awaited me there. A half-dozen clowns surrounded a three-story tall red and yellow stripped cannon.

A female clown approached me, dressed in a black and white striped dress with cap sleeves. Several layers of tulle made the short shirk look like a tutu. Her face was painted white with a cogwheel circling her left eye. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen. “Hiya, hon. You need a boost?”

“A what?”

“You’re looking for a ride to the Realm Makers conference, right?”

“Yes.”

“Great!” She handed me a pair of brown leather aviator goggles. “You’ll need these. Remember, no matter what keep your hands by your side and your body rigid until you hit the net.”

“Wait. What?”

She turned around and spoke to a man dress in a black and white, polka-dotted, one-piece outfit with a vest and a bomber cap, “Moe light the cannon. Let’s get this lady locked and loaded.”

I looked over the cannon again. They must be joking. That couldn’t be the transportation to the conference center. I tapped her on the shoulder. “You don’t really intend to blast me from a cannon into the conference center, do you?” I smiled, sure it was a mistake.

“Oh, no, sug.” She laughed, and I relaxed a little. “We’re gonna blast you into a net hanging off the airship as it goes by. They’ll drop you into the conference center.”

My jaw scrapped the pavement. “You can’t be serious?”

“Don’t worry. It’s a lot of fun. You’ll be begging to do it again.” She turned around again. “Moe is everything a go?”

“Yep.” Looking past me, Moe motioned for someone to come forward. Before I could say another word two more clowns, dressed in the same one piece as Moe, picked me up and carried me up the black metal staircase next to the cannon, feet first

I could feel the blood rushing to my head. I tried to wriggle loose, but they had a tight hold on me. “Put me down! Put me down, now!”

“Sure thing.” They both laughed as they stuffed my body into the cannon. “This won’t hurt a bit. Just keep your arms tucked in and your body rigid.”

They disappeared from view. A moment later, an explosion reverberated inside the barrel. As my body passed through the opening of the cannon, launching into the humid air, the last drop of air rushed out of my lungs. For a moment, my heart stopped beating, sinking deep into my chest. I managed to hold my position, not daring to move a muscle. Faith was my only option. I had to trust that the clowns knew what they were doing.

I shot through a thick cloud that obscured my vision. On the other side, as if materializing out of thin air, the airship appeared. I panicked, breaking formation. A split second later, I dove face first into the bottom of the net, held by more clowns. Great.

There were dozens of other people like me, on the deck. All of us looking towards the helm, to the man holding up his hand. He wore a three-piece suit and top hat. The sun was glowing behind him in hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple.

When the crowd grew quiet, he lowered his hand and spoke, “Ladies and gentleman, I am Captain Grimaldi. We will be arriving at the conference center in a few minutes. I ask that everyone form a single file line behind the gangplank to my right here. Thank you.” He pointed towards a four-foot-long wooden board attached the side of the ship like a diving board.

The clowns secured a yellow tube slide to the plank, inflated it, and motioned for people to step forward. Those who didn’t line up were corralled by the clowns. One by one, we all entered the slide.

At the bottom, a woman dressed in casual business attire waited. “Please follow me, and we’ll get you checked in. I apologize for any inconvenience with the change in venue. The Clown Convention had way more attendees show up than anyone would have guessed. Fortunately, the hotel was able to secure another venue for us, and the clowns offered to transport all of our conference attendees for free.” She smiled at me. “Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.”

“You don’t say.”