The Chase flash fiction by Greta Stone

The Chase

Preface

This was my round 1 entry for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest where I was given a genre, setting, and item to include in a story of 1000 words maximum. I had 48 hours to complete this and made no edits before posting here. I placed 9th of 30 in my group which earned me 7 points. See judges remarks at the end. Enjoy.

{972 words}


Assignment
Genre: suspense
Location: funeral home
Item to include: garden hose

Summary: A woman on the run uses a funeral home to hide out. She must make perfect split decisions to avoid captivity and death.


The last time I saw him, he was on my heels, scaling the chain link fence I had just cleared. The clink and clatter faded behind me as the glow of flashlight danced around my feet. Getting caught was not an option or I faced captivity and death. Heartbeat in overdrive, I ran without looking back at him. The thick underbrush closed around me, blanketing me in complete darkness.

I shoved through the twigs and saplings, stirring the carpet of leaves with a shooshing that was way too loud. If he was behind me, I couldn’t tell. I exited the woods at the back of a white brick funeral home on a suburban street. Evening dew clung to the hem of my jeans as I crossed the open yard. At the front of the building, I paused to catch my breath and scan the area.

Cookie-cutter houses stood close together, each with a concrete stoop and short driveway. The glow of streetlights dotted the road. The smell of pavement, still cooking from the day’s heat, wafted through the air. I was alone. Shuddering, I glanced over my shoulder at the funeral home door. Alone except for the dead.

As if to defy me, the crickets spoke up. It didn’t matter. They couldn’t help me. Neither could the dead.

I curled my hands around the hard plastic in my hoodie pocket. Still there. At least I hadn’t lost it in the chase. I walked to the corner of the building to check the treeline. No one. Would he find me? Was I safe?

Legs aching for rest, I took a seat on the front steps. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He promised he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. He lied. Unsettled, I soon wandered to the edge of the street as if I might find an answer in one direction or the other.

A set of headlights swiped over the front of a house across the street. A car turned onto the road.

They’d found me.

I doubled back, my sneakers padding on the soft pavement as the headlights creeped closer. If I could get to the backyard, to the woods, I could hide out there.

My own shadow stretched out before me. I made a sharp turn at the corner of the funeral home and realized the treeline was too far away. I’d never make it. Clearing a row of low bushes, I landed hard against the concrete foundation. Wood chips flipped away in protest. I slid down, panting, inhaling the scent of cedar and baked earth.

I had to be still despite my racing heartbeat. If they found me, this would be my end. There would be no escape.

A spider skittered over the back of my hand. I had to fight not to scream and flick it away. There was no time for phobias right now.

Through the branches, headlights swept across the lawn and up the side of the white brick wall above my head. I ducked lower, all but kissing the earth beneath me. The car’s tires purred over the freshly paved funeral home driveway as they pulled around the corner and parked. Engine running, a door opened and shut. Footsteps. Coming toward me or moving away, I couldn’t tell. But they’d find me eventually. I needed to move.

I rolled onto one protesting knee and tucked a foot beneath me. Crouching, I slid one hand along the rough foundation as a guide. I tiptoed along, stepping over a coiled up garden hose and past a blackened basement window where the dead rested. At the rear corner of the building, I stood and ran.

Not one step out and I found myself slammed back against a hard chest, a large hand covering my mouth. Panic hit. I needed to scream, but there was no air. I needed air! Kicking at the leg behind me, I flailed in his strong arms.

“Shhh,” the whisper hit my ear, warm against my already damp skin, escalating my panic. “It’s me.”

I froze to process the information. Graham. He was here! They hadn’t caught him at the fence, and somehow he found his way back to me. I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I had in me and slumped against him with relief.

He peeled his hand off my mouth, turned me by my shoulders, and wrapped me in his arms. His t-shirt damp against my cheek, he smelled of sweat and spice. Kissing the top of my head then holding me at arm’s length, he whispered, “They’re in the side yard behind me, making their way around. We need to make a run for it but toward the front.” He gestured in the opposite direction I’d planned to run.

My face tingled at the thought of my near mishap.

“We’re almost clear,” he said. “You got this.”

I nodded, unconvinced. Whatever happened now though, we were in it together.

Grabbing my hand, he pushed through the bushes and ran. Blood screamed through my ears as we crossed the open lawn. Bright white spotlights blasted the building. Blinking blue and red lights flashed a warning, one we disregarded as we dashed across the street and cut through backyards. Swing sets and sandboxes glowed in the moonlight, guiding our way home.

Panting and winded, we collapsed onto the floor of our apartment, saying nothing as we stared at the ceiling to catch our breaths. The sounds of our own panting in the otherwise silent room soon sent us into a fit of laughter. I rolled, tossing my leg over his and wrapping my arm tight over his chest.

He rubbed my back and pulled me closer. “You’ve got the code, right?”

I slid my hand into my pocket and pulled the flash drive out with a grin. “Yup.”


WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

{Judge #1702}  This story has some really strong thriller aspects, such as the action being nonstop. The pacing is very fast. 
{Judge # 1812}  The descriptions of the setting make excellent use of the senses to draw the reader into the story and experience the sites, sounds, smells and feel of the surrounding environment. The story begins with a good hook and gets right into the action. A good resolution to tie up the story at the end.
{Judge # 1858}  You definitely had me on the edge of my seat as I hoped the narrator would make it out of the situation. And then once she found Graham, I was hoping that they would both make it to safety. You’ve done a great job of creating characters that I was rooting for! I also love this line: “Swing sets and sandboxes glowed in the moonlight, guiding our way home.” 

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{Judge # 1702}  This story feels more like a thriller than a suspense story. Suspense is usually a slow unfolding of events where the character slowly realizes exactly how much danger they’re in. In this story, people are in danger from the get-go, from start to finish. And this story is really action driven. As it’s currently written, I don’t think this story quite fits the bill for a suspense tale. 
{Judge #1812}  The synopsis tells us that the main character is a woman however readers won’t know whether she is a man or woman. Try to work in a visual understanding of her character and provide a name. It is much easier for readers to connect with a character when they have a name and a visual to go by. To further improve this story, provide a few details about the background story: who is chasing this couple and what will happen to them if they are caught? Turn the pursuers into stronger villains by making them more threatening. This will increase the stakes as well as heighten concern for the couple’s safety. 
{Judge #1858}  I think that you should start your story with the third paragraph, “Cookie-cutter houses…”. It feels like a much tighter beginning, and you get your readers to the “Alone except for the dead” line a lot quicker. I think it ups the suspense factor even more. Any critical information that is in those first two paragraphs could be included later in the story if necessary.

Your comments and suggestions, as always, are greatly appreciated.

Thank you for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.