Most of what I work on now is for a site called Clever Fiction, I may have mentioned it before, but I am feeling too lazy to go back and look. In any case, you can check out the stories I've written there here.
Recently they had a visual prompt of a bench in the snow. I would link to that post, but their site is having problems. The story I wrote for that prompt is called "Snow Globe", and I quite like it. However the story did not make it up on that site in its entirety. To rectify that I am going to post the whole story here.
by Void Munashii (Visual Prompt)
The cold wind wakes me like a slap in the face. My eyes jerk open, and all I see is white. I think I've gone blind at first until I realize that I am in the middle of a snowy field. I look down at myself to confirm that I can see, but my eyes are greeted with a white winter coat, but I have black gloves on, and they stand out in contrast against the whiteness of everything else.
I take in my surroundings, trying to remember where I am and how I got here; trying to remember who I am. I'm sitting on a bench at the edge of a field like someone waiting at a bus stop. Dense trees surround the clearing. In the very center of the open space is a cabin with a trail of smoke rising from a metal pipe in its roof.
Something about that cabin makes me uneasy, but I don't know why.
I look around me for any signs of how I got here. There are no tracks in the snow, but it's also snowing, so if I've been here for any length of time they may have been covered up. It can't have been by car; there doesn't appear to be any gap in the trees wide enough to drive through.
Maybe I was hurt, and I made I this far and passed out? That would explain why I don't know how I got here, or who I am. I must had suffered a head injury. I feel around my head for a bump or a sore spot, but I don't find any. Drugs maybe, maybe I did drugs.
There's a dark blue backpack on the bench next to me, and I wonder if it will tell me who or where I am. I brush away the layer of snow that has landed on top of the bag, and unzip the top. Inside the bag there are three hardback books: “Pandemic” by Scott Sigler, “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris, and “Bruce Aidell's Complete Book of Pork”. What the hell am I doing with a cookbook?
Digging past the books I find a package of white socks, a box of salt, a jar of garlic powder, and a manila envelope. I pull the envelope out, and open it. Inside there is a single thick piece of paper and a disc, although I don't know if it's a CD or a DVD. The piece of paper has a man's picture on it. Something about the man is familiar, but it doesn't connect to anything specific for me.
I put the items back in the envelope, and the envelope back in the bag. I dig around some more and find what looks like a sharpening stone, a container of antacids, and a box of matches. This doesn't make any sense. If I were going someplace snowy, why would I pack this assortment of crap?
Maybe I'm stupid. Maybe I am a drug user.
I zip the backpack closed, sling it onto my shoulder, and get up from the bench. My feet crunch in the snow, leaving deep footprints behind me as I head for the tree line. The trees are tight together, but there should be plenty enough space between them for a person to fit through.
I make my way to the tree line and stop. I've hit something. I put my hands out towards the trees, but something is stopping me from touching them. It feels like I am touching a glass wall.
I take the gloves off, stuffing them in my coat pocket, and touch the wall. I feel... nothing. It's not cold like glass would be, but it's not warm either. It doesn't feel like anything, but I cannot put my hands through it. I try pounding my fist against the barrier; it doesn't hurt, and it doesn't make any sort of noise.
I don't understand this. The snow seems to be passing through it, and when I blow on it, the vapour from my breath passes through easily enough, but I can't. I swing the backpack against it, and it bounces back like it hit something.
I don't know how to put it in words. It's like I am pushing against a solid wall while pushing against nothing. I can feel the presence of a hard, solid barrier, but I can't feel the surface of it.
There must be a gap or a break in it. I got in here somehow, right? If I can get in, then I can get out.
I start moving to my left, sliding my hand over the smooth yet non-existent surface that is keeping me from getting into the woods. I slog through the snow around the edge of the open space, my hand always inches from the trees, but never quite able to touch them.
There aren't any breaks. How can there not be a way through? I've gone far enough around the clearing now to be in front of the cabin, and still haven't found any way through.
“You may as well give up, son!” a voice comes to be on the wind.
I turn away from my invisible wall to see an old man sitting on the cabin's porch. He's wearing a red and black coat, a furry cap, and is smoking a pipe. He looks harmless, but something in me cringes all the same.
“You can't get out,” he calls to me, “Not like that anyhows.”
I swallow down my fear and call to the old man.
“Where am I?”
“What?” The old man yells back.
“Where am I? How did I get here?”
“You're gonna hafta come closer, son. My hearing's not what it was!”
He seems harmless enough; old certainly. I dismiss my unease as just a reaction to my situation. It seems like he might have some answers anyway.
I trudge across the snow, and step up onto the cabin's covered porch; the boards creak under my weight. I can see the old man better now, and he looks even older than I first thought; eighty at least. He's sitting in an old rocking chair. There's a table next to him with a metal ashtray and a hardback book; the dustcover has been removed so I can't see the title.
“You been checking that wall for a while now?” the old man asks, “I was tempted to let ya go all the way around if you didn't look over at me yourself, but I was thinking on goin' inside, and I didn't want to leave you out here.”
“Umm... thanks,” I say, running my hands through my hair to brush out the snow before it all melts.
“I once saw this one girl go all the way around twice before she finally decided to come talk to me. I find that as I grow older I lack the patience to let you kids do that though,” the old man shakily rises from the chair, “Lets head inside. It's nice and warm in there.”
The old man walks past me, and opens the cabin's door, a plain brown thing with four small windows set into it that creaks loudly as he forces the hinges to move. He enters the cabin and leaves the door open behind him, “Hurry up 'fore you let all the cold in,” he says as he strips off his coat.
The door takes a bit of pushing to get it to close, but it seals the cold out nicely. The inside of the cabin is quite warm thanks to the big stove near the center of it, and the heat makes my cheeks and ear burn from being in the cold outside. There is a large steaming pot on top of the stove.
“Get outta that wet coat before you drip all over my floor!” The old man orders, “You can hang it on the hooks there.
There are four hooks on the wall next to the door. The old man's coat is on one, and a blue coat of a similar style to my own is next to it. I hang my coat on one of the empty hooks, drop my backpack on the floor under it, and look around.
Three of the walls of the large room are hidden behind bookshelves, broken only by the windows and door. There is an easy chair and a shabby sofa with a coffee table facing the stove on one side and a small round kitchen table with three chairs on the other.
At the back of the room are a pair of doors. A bathroom probably, and maybe a bedroom or closet; I don't see a bed in here. Next to the doors is a sink, some cabinets, and a fridge that looks like it was old when the old man was young.
“Where am I?” I ask.
“Get right to the point, don't ya?” the man asks, stirring the steaming pot with a long handled spoon, “You haven't even introduced yourself yet, boy.”
“I'm sorry, but I don't know who I am.”
The old man laughs like it's the funniest thing he's ever heard, “No, of course you don't. No one who comes here does,” he puts the spoon down on a plate on the kitchen table and walks over to me. He leans in close to my ear, “Tell ya the truth, I don't know who I am either,” and he cackles again.
“Do you know where here is?” I ask.
“I call it the snow globe; snows here all the time,” the man says, “Been here a long time, I think. I bet you're hungry; there's a little stew left there if you want some. There're bowls by the sink.”
I realize that I am hungry. I see a dish strainer next to the sink with a pair of brown bowls and some utensils sitting in it. I take a bowl and a spoon, and go over to the stew pot, “Thank you,” I say to the old man as I spoon some of the meat and broth into the bowl.
“I'm happy to share,” the old man says, “Take a seat and enjoy.”
I sit at the table and begin to eat. The meat is kind of grayish, but it smells like beef. I wonder if I'll get food poisoning from eating meat that has gone off or something. I take a bite, and it tastes a little sweet; pork maybe.
“Finally!” the old man exclaims, “I've been waiting to read this! The first two were great.”
I turn and see that the old man is going through my backpack. He's looking at one of the books; It looks like the “Pandemic” one.
“Excuse me?” I say once I've swallowed.
“Ah! Salt! Thank God!” he says like I hadn't spoken, “And some new socks!”
“Excuse me, sir,” I say, rising from the table, “That's my bag; that's everything I have... I think.”
The old man looks at me, “I'm sorry, it's just been awhile, and I've been running out of some stuff. Like I said, that's the last of the stew there. Some vegetables woulda been nice this time though. It's not like I can grow my own here or anythin'”
“So there are other people here?” I ask, looking at the blue coat hung next to mine.
“Nope, jus' me an' you right now. I'm sure you'll be passin' on soon though,” the old man pulls out the manila envelope, “Here we go, lets find out who you are.”
The man crosses the room, and stoops down to open a cabinet at the bottom of one of the bookshelves. He pulls out a laptop computer, and comes over to place it on the kitchen table.
“I wouldn't keep this in there, you know, but that's where the plug socket is. What sorta idiot puts a plug socket in a cabinet?” he asks as he opens the computer's lid.
While the computer boots up, the old man slips the photo and the disc out of the envelope, “Handsome, aren't ya?” he asks, holding up the picture, “I bet you pulled the ladies, didn't ya? Or did you prefer guys?”
“I don't know.”
“Don't worry about it. I ain't here to judge ya; they done that already. Now lets see who you were.”
I don't like the way he phrased that.
The old man puts the disc into the computer, and uses the computer's touch pad to access it.
“Okay, so you were Anders Anderson,” he laughs at my name, “No wonder you ended up here with a name like that. I bet you got mocked somethin' fierce in school. Probably warped you bad.”
“That disc says who I am?”
“Yup. I wish they had these things when they put me here, at least then I'd know who I am and why I'm here.”
“Why am I here?”
“Lets see,” he reads the screen, “It seems you are a,” he pauses for effect, “murderer; shot up a shopping mall.”
“No,” I say. The idea repulses me.
“Yup, but that's pretty normal. Here, look for yourself, “he turns the laptop towards me, and the leaves the table, “Murder's what gets most people sent here. Rape occasionally. Makes we wonder what kind of a bastard I was.”
“How many people have been put here?” I ask.
“God, it must be a few hundred by now. I've got albums fulla your pictures. I expect they'll be sending on a new album soon. I hope they send some vegetables too.”
I can't look away from the computer. There's a mugshot of the man in the photo, of me, and a mass of text describing how I killed twenty-eight civilians and two police officers before I was captured.
“So if there have been hundreds of people like me here, where are they now?”
“They passed on, don't ya listen?” The old man replies, I can see him out of the corner of my eye; he's standing by the sink, “You'll be passing on shortly, and in a week or two they'll send me someone else.”
“You said that before,” I say, “'Passing on'. Where will I pass on to?”
“You see, I figure that I must have done something really awful,” he continues without replying to me, “because they want me to suffer; they want me to survive; it's why they keep sending folks like you to me. You kids pass on, while I remain.”
“Pass on to where?” I say, still looking at the computer. There are links in the document, and clicking on them opens pictures of dead, bloody bodies. One of the pictures is of a child clutching a bloodstained stuffed rabbit; half of the kid's head is missing.
“If I were a stronger man, a better man, I would just let myself go,” The old man starts moving towards me, “I tried, but it's so hard. One of these days I'll go though, and then one of you kids will take over for me. Until then... well, I just get so hungry.”
I turn in time to see the old man coming at me, the cleaver in his right hand raised above his head, ready to split mine.
He moves fast for an old man; very, very fast.