Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Justice and Mercy

The writing challenge continues from Indie Ink. Each week a group of us come up with an "idea" or a "challenge" which then randomly gets submitted to another person on the list. Feel free to visit (most of) the blogs of the other writers taking this challenge in the column to the right (yes, I need to update it, but that is most of them)... Welcome to my week 5. As always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions, and other neuronically-fired feedback either in the comments here, or on Twitter or Facebook!

Week 5.
My Challenger: Kat (the Sassy Irish lass...)
My Challenge: You are abruptly awakened by a blaring alarm and the smell of smoke...

Previous Challenges:
[Week 1.] [Week 2.] [Week 3.] [Week 4.]

Justice and Mercy

Sniff, sniff.

"What the... Hello?" Wait--I can't... Am I tied down? What...?

"Hello? Someone? I smell... I can't... Hello? Is anyone there?"

Silence greets me. No, not total silence. I hear the faint noise of an alarm sounding, seemingly from miles away. But darkness embraces me. A small hint of light teases me from behind, but-- Looking down, I am bound and tied to a chair. I think. It's is so damn dark!


Then a sound booms through the darkness with a terrifying loudness: "Victim 1. Arnold Smith. Aged 42."

I feel tears running down my face. Victim 3? Arnold... Smith? Is that who I am? But the booming electronic sounding voice that had shattered the silence of a thousand moments didn't answer my thoughts. "Hello? Who--is someone there? Help! I seem to be tied down... And I can't move my arms or legs?"

Why am I saying this like a question? I can't move my arms or legs! The feeble light from behind my head has turned an alarming shade of red. Maybe if I twist...

But it was no use. The chair must be bolted to the floor. The high back of the chair keeps me from peering behind, and looking up--more darkness.

Sniff, sniff.

"I think--I think there's a fire!" I yell. "Hey! This isn't-- Is this a joke? Hello?!"

Silence. More smoke.

Either my eyes are adjusting, or the red light ("The fire!") is growing brighter, stronger... Hotter.

Yes, it's definitely getting brighter and hotter in here. "HEY! Someone! Please! There's a fire in here! HELLO! HELP!"

Nothing. Sweat and tears mingle and stream down my face. I feel my clothes becoming a damp mess. Am I wearing-- is this a hospital gown? What the...?

I feel the flames licking up behind me, the intense heat beginning to singe my leg hairs from behind. "Hey you fuckers!! Get me out of here! I know you can hear me! Hey! HELP!"

("No one is coming for you. This is your fate. Your self-created destiny.")

"WHO SAID THAT!!" Either I'm totally losing it--and who wouldn't, tied down, unable to move, with a fire creeping up behind you?--or I'm in the hands of a very very sick person. "WHO IS THERE? GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF-- AAARRHH!"

The flames have me now--I feel it searing into my scalp, feel the vinyl of the chair melting, burning, searing into my skin, mingling and becoming one with the layers of my body as they burn, peel, singe away.

All I can do is scream, but that allows the flames to shoot down into my throat, into my lungs... I'm burning alive... I'm burning...


"What?!" I gasp, sweating, laboring to breath. Still alive... Just a nightmare...

But-- wait... No... Tied... Down... What the FUCK! I'm not tied down... I just--my body won't move! This isn't even my body! It's all wrinkled looking! Old! And I have--breasts?! Now I know that's wrong. I may not remember what the hell is going on, but I know I'm not an old woman... Right? Wait...

But I'm alive. Alive. No fire. I sigh. Glance around. Hospital gown. Light pink walls. Body won't respond. Am I sick? What's going on?

"Oh, nurse? Nurse?" What the hell, it can't hurt, right? I think I see one behind the translucent curtains covering the window that looks like it leads out into a hall.

"Hello?! Can anyone here me?"

"Now Mrs. White--"

Then that same weird electronic voice booms over: "Victim 2. Vivian White. Aged 87."

My eyes dart around, the sheer loudness tearing up my eyes, drowning out the young man I now see on my right. Can't--I missed something. He acts like he can't hear "The Voice."

"--and you'll pay soon enough for making my life a living hell, you old witch!"

I gasp--at least, I think I gasp. He looks so familiar...But I can't place him, and the fear cutting through my heart cuts off any more logical thought processes. That murderous look in his eyes! That rage--directed at me!

I notice my hands are reaching for the call button--not that I'm doing that!

I'm in someone else's body! The realization hits hard, and if I'd had a body, I'm sure I would have fallen right out of this bed!

"Don't bother, Mrs.White," the young man grins hideously as he twirls a broken cord in his hands. "There's no one coming to help you." Then I see him pull a book of matches out from his pocket.

No! NO! But it's useless. I have no control over this body--all I can do is observe, screaming, begging him not to light that match.

But he does. And tosses it on the bed.

And leaves, shutting the door behind him.

I see the flame beginning to grow. I'm shouting, yelling, cursing in futility as it begins to lick up the sheets around my feet.

Sniff, sniff.

The smoke--the smoke is back. The room is growing dim so quickly! The screaming isn't helping, the old body trying so helplessly to escape isn't comforting, and there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it--

But I do feel the pain as the flames begin to eat through the sheets. "No, no! Not again! NO! SOMEONE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! HELP!"

But it's no use. The room grows thick with smoke. Bells are going off, I see people rushing about on the edges of my vision. They're trying to get into my room, but something is preventing them from entering.


The pain again as the flames begin to eagerly consume me, it's meal, it's nourishment. "SWEETJESUSFUCKITHURTSMAKEITSTOP--AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!"


"NO!!!" Gasping, sweating, screaming... But...

Oh, fuck.

"No, no, nonononononono--"

The Voice: "Victim 3. Alan Robespierre. Aged 12."

In his head. Alan's. I get it now. I'm in his head, watching him play with his marbles on the sidewalk. I notice him notice the black van coming slowly up the street. I notice him notice the window rolling down, notice that same young man from the hospital holding a bottle, notice the fire dancing at the top of that bottle, notice it flying in my direction, smashing me/him directly in the chest, notice the flames quickly engulfing me--



I'm going mad, I can feel it. This has to be a dream--a series of nightmares. How many times can I die before I die?

I'm in another child's body, I see.

And I hear it: "Victim 4. Sicily Gunter. Aged 9."

Nine? Nine?!

I/Sicily turn and see the orange flames...

More fire...

More pain...


"Hey, doc!" the policeman yelled. "He's flat-lining again."

The doctor comes around the bedside and stares down at the young man, checks the I.V. drip, then produces a needle. "I hate it when I pull this shift," he mutters, sticking the young man in the arm. The machine that had been buzzing continuously has a steady rhythm once again: Beep.... Beep.... Beep....

"I ain't so fond of it myself, but it pays the bills." The policeman props his feet back up on his desk, then takes a sip of coffee from his mug.

"What's that, the third time now? For a serial arsonist, you'd think he'd have a stronger stomach," the doctor states.

The policeman looks down at the monitors of his desk. "And he's only just now starting his seventh victim! Looks like it's going to be a long night, doc."

"How many did he kill?"


"Seriously? What a monster. We should just let him die!"

"Now, doc, you know the rules. We have to keep him alive until he relives all of his victims' deaths. If he's still alive after the last one--well, that's for the doc's in the psychiatric ward to deal with then. You and me? We're just carrying out his sentence, nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise we're no better than he is."

The doctor sighs. "I suppose. You have to love 23rd century justice."

"That you do. Oh, watch him. I think he's--yep. Flat-lined again. Bring him back, doc."

The doctor sighs again. "Somehow I think it'd be more effective if we didn't wipe his memory before we put him through this." He plunges the needle into the young man's arm.

"But then where would the justice be? The devil deserves it. As sentenced by a jury of his peers."




Dafeenah said...

Holy Hell! That was freaking awesome! Reminded of Saw. One of my all time favorite movies btw. You are one seriously disturbingly talented writer.

The word verification is valieum. I definitely think I need some.


painting techniques said...

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alyssa said...

uh... wow. i mean, wow. what a way to run like hell with that challenge! fantastic and brilliant

Kat said...

Wicked and chilling. My heart is still racing. Love the spin you took with that prompt.

supermaren said...

You really have a gift for science fiction. I love what you've done with this prompt, and I was riveted all the way to the end. Great job!

Karla said...

What a great piece! Justice is such a fickle friend and you captured that brilliantly. We start off relating to the narrator, feeling that panic as "we" get burned time and time again and then at the end, when we realize the narrator is "the bad guy" all that is left is our sympathies with nowhere to go... The theme of being put into the seat of the punished is something that all who are charged with justice should experience. Well done!

Marian said...

good god, man. at first it was like a christmas carol. then, spiraling way way outta control.
on a side note, my community was rocked by a night of arson fires last year that killed two people and left several families homeless. the trial of the (alleged) arsonist is moving forward. maybe this instead? huh.

You can call me, 'Sir' said...

Heh. Dark. And awesome.

Jason Hughes said...

Thanks so much for your feedback! Love you all--you all have such creative entries into this writing contest, it really makes me try all that much harder! (If you know me, you know I love nothing more than a good competition!)

And FYI--I couldn't even BEGIN to make it through the SAW movies--halfway through the first one, I shut it off--and I was watching in in broad daylight! LOL! I HATE horror movies!

Mandy said...

Wow, Jason. The twist was unexpected but really a wonderful and terrifying surprise. I loved it.

Lazidaisical said...

Aaaaahh! This was superb! I was cringing the whole time; I hate horror movies, too. HATE THEM. I'd never be able to write a horror piece. Great job! Welcome back!

Mandy said...

Wow, Jason. The twist was unexpected but really a wonderful and terrifying surprise. I loved it.

Dafeenah said...

Holy Hell! That was freaking awesome! Reminded of Saw. One of my all time favorite movies btw. You are one seriously disturbingly talented writer.

The word verification is valieum. I definitely think I need some.


alyssa said...

uh... wow. i mean, wow. what a way to run like hell with that challenge! fantastic and brilliant