I was entered in the 24-Hour Short Story Contest a few weeks ago. Here’s the topic, the rules, and my entry.
The feet of her pajamas offered no protection as she trudged through the deep drifts. She had been crying throughout her ordeal and, when she lowered her head for protection from the wind, she almost missed a light piercing through the trees. As she instinctively turned in that direction, she heard a train whistle.
Stories for today’s topic must not exceed 875 words. (Your story’s title is not included in the word count. We use MSWord’s word count function to determine the final word count for submissions.)
Very Important: Type “24 Hour Contest” in the subject line of your email entry! This will enable us to pull any wayward entries out of our spam filter.
The rules state you do not have to use the subject word-for-word, but you must touch on in some way.
Here’s my entry.
“Carry Me Home”
He woke. It was dark, but the light of a half moon shone through the window. It provided enough for him to distinguish the strange bed he lay in and the equally strange furniture. On an old dresser, he saw his cap; on a chair, his clothes haphazardly draped.
He sat up and looked around. “Where am I?” His voice echoed back at him in the silent house. “They must be asleep.” He whispered. “Why am I here? I need to get home to Stella. She’ll worry.”
Sim slipped from bed, dressed quickly, and pulled on his slippers. He reasoned they’d be more silent than his boots, which rested at the foot of the bed. He opened the door, cringed when it creaked, and peered into the hall. The house was dark and silent.
He crept down the stairs, paused at the bottom, and rushed to the door. A cold blast of winter air greeted his lungs. He’d forgotten his coat, but it was too late to go back. The moonlight lit the wintery landscape. “It must have snowed.” He thought. “How long was I asleep or drugged? Why did they bring me here? The new snow is a problem. They’ll see my tracks.”
Sim surveyed his surroundings: no lights, a snow-covered driveway into the forest. He couldn’t go that way. “The forest!” He smiled. He was an excellent hunter and tracker. They’d never find him. He’d find a road and blend his tracks with those of the cars.
He took the steps to the ground. They snapped loudly in the cold. He froze at the landing, looked for life in the house, saw none, and dredged into the snow. It was deeper than he thought. It was like wading in mud.
The wind pulled tears from his eyes. Flakes of snow—tiny daggers—pierced his flesh. He lowered his head into the gusts and trudged forward into the deep drifts. His thin pants offered little protection to the weather, but he moved toward the protection of the forest.
The wind was less biting under the cover of the scented pines. Sim turned and looked back at the house—no movement, no lights, safe.
His hands shook with cold as he reached to move a branch from his path. The cold air worked its way through the skin to his bones. In the faint light of the moon filtering through the branches above, he saw the tracks of a deer in the snow. “A deer would know the safest place to hide.” He thought. “They’re survivors.” He knew it well. He was well known for his hunting and shooting skills. The deer know survival.
Sim followed the deer into deeper forest. His collar soaked in his blood from a scratch on his cheek, froze to his neck. He forced his way through the undercover. No moon shone on these snows.
“Snow! I need more snow to cover my tracks.” He thought and moved forward. “They’ll find me! Have … to … get … home.”
Light ahead … No … A highway lit by the moon. Sim parted the branches and stepped onto a road, a trail. He couldn’t tell. No tracks. Only the deer’s where it crossed to the other side. The trail—he decided it was a trail—stretched into darkness in both
directions. Which way to go?
He turned right. Right was his lucky side—Stella must be in that direction. That’s where he always found her in their bed at night—and began to walk.
The snow grew brighter. Sim looked at the moon. It was the same, but the snow still brightened. He looked at it again. His shadow lengthened. He turned instinctively. A bright light grew in size. The ground rumbled under his wet and frozen feet. Sim remembered WWII. “They’re going to bomb me. They sent in the planes.” He leapt for cover just before the train, horn blowing, whipped by, sending a torrent of snow swirling in the air. It spun in the air as the steel wheels screeched over the rails buried under the snow.
Sim splayed out in the snow. Fresh powder settled over him. “So warm.” he thought, as hypothermia took it’s toll. He rolled to his right, reached out his arm, “Stella? Stella? I’m home.”
Sim felt a hand on his shoulder. “Stella?”
“Dad? It’s me.
Sim turned his face from the snow and looked up at the man shaking him. “Who are you?”
“It’s Cliff. Dad, you’re half frozen. Let’s get you home. We’ve searched all night for you.”
Sim tried to shake the evil of Alzheimer’s from his head. “I need to get home to Stella.”
Cliff reached down and lifted his father from the snow. “Oh, Dad! I love you!”
“Stella?” Sim asked, confused by the man’s tears.
“Dad, mom’s been dead for ten years.”
“Yes, Dad. Mom’s gone. Let’s get you home.”
Sim’s mind cleared momentarily. He remembered holding Stella on the floor after her heart attack, praying for help. “Okay, son. Take me home. I want to go home.” Tears mixed with the blood on his cheek, as his son picked his frail father up. “Carry me home.”
Michael T. Smith
Word count: 868