Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and twenty-first piece in this series. This week’s is a 480-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 37 (with three other stories / with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 22nd February.
No Fun in the Snow
The snow chains on the rear wheels were making for an uncomfortable ride home. The snow had been falling for two days, a continuous, heavy fall. However, the wind had got up over the last hour and sometimes threw it against the bus, as if trying to find a way into the warm.
Finally John heard the engine change pitch as it started up the long hill towards home. The bus pulled in at the curb and he lowered himself to the pavement. He waved to the driver as the doors closed with a mechanical hiss and the bus moved on into the snowy night.
Across the road, he saw a tall man, standing, topped by a flat cap, pulled down on one side of the face and he had a cigarette in his mouth, the glowing end the only animate thing about him. John turned his face to the weather and started walking. In the snow-broken silence, he heard a vague movement indicating the man had started walking too.
At the junction he turned left, shocked as the wind barrelled into him and snow tore into his face. He glanced behind; the man had stopped, looking at a snowman in one of the gardens, a cigarette throwing off a small, flaring orange light beneath the cap as he looked round. John considered confrontation but that would mean either waiting or going back and the wind, now banshee-wailing through the telephone wires, helped him decide against such a move so he started walking; the half mile or so to home would take only ten minutes even in these conditions. He strained his ears and was not surprised to hear the sounds of the man behind, again sounding no nearer yet no further away.
Breathing hard, at the top of the road he turned into the cul-de-sac, reaching in his pocket for his house keys. Entering the front garden, he turned to close the gate. The man was at the end of the road he’d just walked up, looking around as if lost or confused at his surroundings. He wasn’t confused enough not to have another lit cigarette in his mouth, John noticed, as he let himself in and locked the door behind, turning on the hall light. He took his coat off and made his way upstairs.
He looked out the studio window. The tall man was over the road, looking up at the window, an orange glow beneath the cap, which he now lifted, revealing a second orange glare – his eyes. A larger orange glow, the flames from the very gates of hell, appeared as he opened his mouth, laughing. The figure crossed the road; leaving black, steaming holes in the snow, not taking his eyes from the window. John felt his knees buckle as the front door crashed and splintered, and the first footfalls fell on the stairs.
I asked Chris what prompted this piece and he said…
A month or so ago I was having my old problems with insomnia and the doctor wanted to try another product – it was hellish, didn’t work and left me feeling awful but during this period I had this, if you like, waking dream where I was in a house and there was someone over the road watching me. Although I was in the house trying my best to observe but not be seen I could still feel the eyes following my every movement. That morning I went to work and it started snowing and this figure, in a Sicilian coppola hat, wouldn’t go away. I started wondering about the eyes that knew exactly where I was, even though I was hidden and figured that it had to have, at the very least, a supernatural presence. As I worked through it, supernatural became slightly more demonic. I’m all for the supernatural and don’t ordinarily tread where the devil may drag his tail but it fell into place. The initial intention was to leave the ending a little ambiguous, to let the reader decide what happened whilst John sat looking out of his window, behind the curtain. It wasn’t until John walked up his garden path that the ending came to me. I like it, I hope it works.
It certainly does, Chris. It’s one of my favourites of yours, actually. Thank you for sending it to me.
Upon moving to London, a bit like Dick Whittington, searching for streets of gold, he happened upon a beautiful Italian lady who later decided to take him to the sunny realm of southern Switzerland, where he can still be found, smiling inanely, continuously in search of Weissbier.
When he is not working or drinking he sits in front of the computer, searching for fictional inspiration. You can find Chris via his blogs http://christopherfarley.wordpress.com and http://talkingtosh.wordpress.com.
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