Bed of stone – short contest story
My back ached on the rough gravel as the acrid smell of rotting foliage wafted up my nose. I opened one eye and snapped it shut as I swallowed back the lump in my throat. The slate structure loomed over my head like a behemoth monster from a dystopian universe. A pulsation began, humming through the ground and up into my spine, increasing in volume, the irregular thumps creating a disjointed beat. I raised my hand to my head to find a lump at the bottom of my skull.
The last thing I remembered was Alice. Sweet Alice, whose lips tasted of ash and whose skin looked like it had been brushed with soot. Her peppery voice rang through my head, “Where you been honey? I got off on conditional release yesterday, and I couldn’t find you anywhere!” Even Alice, who I trusted with my life, would flash that gap-toothed smile and laugh when I told her the truth. “I’ve been hiding from them, Alice….”
I couldn’t even remember my last meal, because technically, the crust of bread I’d stolen off the woman’s plate at the mall didn’t count. My stomach growled, like a beast unfurling within me.
I opened my eyes and jumped when I saw water— diminutive swells that rushed along, transporting me to my past— languid summers on the beach, splashing with my sister Emma on summer vacation. That felt like a lifetime ago, when I’d had a family and a home and dog.
But then they started tracking me.
I’ve had to stay one step ahead, always planning for where they might pop up, who they might pay off, or who was posing as a friend.
The hollow thunking sound above ripped me from my thoughts and back to this dank truth—
Realization hit me like a wet slap.
I’m under the Bridge.
I wondered how I’d gotten here, to this point where my life consisted of a gravel bed, someone else’s garbage for lunch and a concrete structure for a roof.
“Hey! You—down there!” The voice caused my stomach to drop to my feet. “Is that you, David?”
They found me!
Footsteps ensued, the crunch, crunch, crunch of gravel ratcheting my throat tighter and tighter.
I sprang to my feet and bolted up the steep bank, where in the light of day, the world looked safe— coffee shops, women with strollers and city busses whirring by.
But I knew better.
I placed my hand on the guardrail and lunged sideways onto the walkway—
I fell, my ankle caught between the concrete and guardrail, and I landed, palms first onto the biting stone.
But pain was the least of my concerns.
I whirled around to face them.
They hovered over me, their globe faces bobbing over black gear, a static shriek emanating from their very core.
“David,” the demon said with narrowed eyes, his lips a tight thin line. “You’re off your meds again, aren’t you?”
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Joanne Brothwell: A paranormal writer and mental health therapist, Joanne Brothwell loves
everything dark, creepy and outright disturbing. You can read about the
ways she enjoys torturing her characters as she blogs about her latest
writing foibles at
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