The author Chuck Wendig issued another flash fiction challenge recently on his blog terribleminds.com. If you haven't checked out some of his writing yet, I highly suggest you do. He issues these challenges fairly frequently, but I don't participate in all of them. The result of the last one I did was my flash fiction story The Creature.
For this one he challenged his readers to write about something that scares us. Could be something obvious, like spiders, or something more cerebral, like losing your mind. This one was a bit tough for me since I had a hard time settling on just one of my many fears.
Without further ado, please enjoy The Last Goodbye.
Olivia looked up at the dark and rumbling sky, then ran back towards the bookstore. James had already started moving their necessities into the basement. Clothing, water, canned food, books. Check, check, check and check. Where was the rest of her family? Her brother, her parents? She looked back as she ran but couldn't see them anywhere in the bustling, panicked street. She would check again in a few minutes. The sky howled and growled. Then, THUD. A large rock, space debris, had smashed into the concrete just steps from Olivia.
"Hand me that box, would you?" James asked from the bottom of the ladder to the basement as Olivia ran into the bookstore, the tinkling doorbell announcing her arrival.
"Yea, of course," she replied, picking up the box nearest the square hole in the wooden planks behind the cash counter and passing it down to James on the ladder. "I couldn't find them," she said, still panting from the run back. "The square was too crazy. Everybody's freaking out. Rocks are falling from the sky."
James poked his head up out of the entrance to the basement. "What?"
"It's getting worse."
"We need to find them. I'm almost done here. Hand me that last box."
Olivia reached for the last box of books by the counter and passed it down to James.
"You know," grunted James as he accepted the box, "I'm not sure the end of the world necessitates quite so many books."
"I need them, James," replied Olivia curtly.
"Alright, alright." James placed the last box in the corner of the basement. The dank space was the size of the bookstore, big enough to house a small group of people and their provisions. It was dark, but it would do. He climbed up the ladder and took hold of the heavy trapdoor, shutting it. It landed in the ground with a thud. Plumes of dust rose up around it. "Let's go," he said.
They ran out of the bookstore, the doorbell tinkling and chiming after them. The street was now littered with space debris and more was falling from the sky. The chaos had increased a hundredfold in the few minutes that Olivia and James had been inside. The air now seemed thicker, greyer. They took a left towards the town square. Olivia grabbed James' hand and squeezed it tight as they made their way through the sea of people, very much swimming upstream.
In running, James lost his balance but Olivia caught him in her forward momentum. Through a gap in the chaos, Olivia could see her parents and brother on the other side of the square.
"Mom! Dad!" Olivia shouted as loud as she could, but her voice was drowned out by the chaos and the sound of heavy rocks smashing into the square, sending concrete and debris flying everywhere. They were not facing her and James.
"LINDA! FRANK! SAM!" James shouted at the top of his lungs. He was waving frantically. Finally, Sam turned and, seeing Olivia and James maniacally trying to get their attention, tugged on Linda's hand and pointed to them. Linda and Frank saw Olivia and James and waved back at them. "THIS WAY!" shouted James, gesturing in the direction of the bookstore.
Frank started pushing his way through the crowd. Then CRACK. A giant rock crashed into the square, sending the crowd flying back. Olivia toppled over, scraping her bare knees on the concrete. James fell on top of her. Still others fell next to them. Debris rose into the air from the impact. Tiny pebbles and rocks rained down on the town. When they finally looked back out into the square, Olivia and James could no longer see Linda, Frank and Sam.
"MOM! DAD! SAM!" cried Olivia. Now the screams and panic in the square were too loud. She had no hope of making herself heard.
"There! There they are!" shouted Sam, pointing across the square. Olivia could barely see - a red shirt here, purple hair there - but she knew it was them. They were being pushed back out of the square by the panicked crowd. Away from James and Olivia.
Debris was falling out of the sky at a rapid pace. Cracks and thuds rang out as even the smallest objects broke skulls and bodies. Olivia and James got caught in a thick sea of people moving quickly back towards the bookstore, towards the homes. They couldn't move against it. Olivia tried. She could still see her parents, now more in the distance.
"MOM! DAD! SAM!" screamed Olivia. She tried to run forward, against the tide, but James grabbed her hand tightly. She turned around. Two people stood between her and James. He shoved his way past them to reach Olivia.
"There's nothing we can do, Olivia! We have to get back to the bookstore!" shouted James amid the smashing of rocks and screaming of people.
"But my family!" shouted Olivia. A burly man running past her knocked her against James. They might as well have been pinballs amid the hysterical crowd.
"We have to go!" James shouted again, this time in her ear. They were being pushed against with violent force now. "Or we're going to get trampled!"
Olivia looked back at the square. She tried to make out her family one more time. But she couldn't. There were too many people running every which way. Taking in the scene for half a second more, she finally turned back to James. As soon as he saw the consent in her eyes, James tightened his grip on her hand and began shoving his way through the crowd, clearing a path for Olivia. Elbowing past everyone, they finally made it back to the bookstore. The door tingled as they rushed in. James heaved the trapdoor open. Olivia stepped onto the ladder and descended. James followed, shutting the trapdoor after him.
Plumes of dust puffed up around the door as it landed heavily in the ground.