This writing prompt is courtesy of Carol J Forrester’s new September Speculative Fiction Prompt. This is not a new prompt, I understand we have D Wallace Peach to thank for its creation and that Carol has picked up the baton. If this month’s image is anything to go by it looks like it’s in safe hands.
The challenge is to write a piece of speculative fiction on the intriguing dark photo. No word length or style limits. I’ve gone with a bit of a classically inspired modern comedy. I’ll leave up to you if it works. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s takes.
Mike hated the night shift, doubly so, thanks to the builders renovating the flat next door. The world might never sleep, but he was hoping he might get some tonight. Unfortunately, the reality of working tech support for a 24-hour news agency was he’d get little chance to curl up in a quiet corner. He flashed his pass at the security guard and wearily headed down into the basement.
“Ah Perseus you’ve returned from your odyssey and what bounty have you,” Trevor said. He didn’t bother to look up from his desktop, instead choosing to dispatch another Orc.
“You’re thinking of Jason. Here,” Mike said tossing the steaming takeaway on the table next to him.
Trevor snatched the box greedily still transfixed by the inane gruntings coming from his machine, “Ah, Ambrosia. The food of the gods.”
“More like a heart attack in a box”, Mike said taking his jacket off and slumping into his chair.
“Each to their own”, spluttered Trevor, tucking in.
“Any problems”, Mike said, logging into his machine.
“Nah the usual. The backups on the servers have failed, again. You’ll need to check on the roll-out of the antivirus updates in a couple of hours. Same old, same old.”
Mike sighed, the weekly backups never worked. That would be a ton of paperwork and a couple of hours of his life he wouldn’t be getting back.
“Oh and Medusa on the 4th has frozen some more victims,” Trevor added.
Mike rolled his eyes, that was all he needed, “Really? Does she know what time it is”
“Yea she’s well aware, she was babbling something about a deadline.”
“So why didn’t you go sort it out”, Mike growled.
Trevor just pointed a greasy finger at his screen, “Level 60 beckons and you know she gives me the creeps.”
Mike shook his head. It was going to be one of those nights.
Stepping into the lift he punched the button for the 4th and checked his phone for any messages. The ding of the lift bell signalled his arrival, the doors sliding open to reveal the pitch-black 4th floor. Stepping out into the gloom the fluorescent lights flickered on above him. He hated motion-sensitive lights, even if they might be saving the planet. The lift doors closed quietly behind him.
Cubicles stretched off in every direction, all in darkness except for the odd flashing LED here and there twinkling like multi-coloured stars. Odd, there should be some section of the floor lit up if she was still working. Maybe she’d gone home or more likely Trevor was winding him up. Either way, it was looking like a wasted trip.
To be sure though he headed down the nearest aisle trying to remember exactly which featureless cubicle was hers. Every dozen yards the next set of lights would blink on momentarily casting strange shadows as they flickered into life. He was trying his best to ignore the eeriness of the situation, it was after all a modern office, not a crypt. He was struggling to shake the feeling that he’d lost his bearings somewhere in this labyrinth of cubicles, the aisles were all starting to look very similar.
He cursed when the next section of lights failed to illuminate, no matter how much he danced and waved his hands around. He’d seen too many low budget horror films not to spot a cliched plot. Pulling out his phone he launched the torch app, always handy. Handy that is if you want to make an already creepy situation even creepier. He waved the phone around and the shadows danced and skittered around him menacingly.
Sections of lights started blinking out behind him, starting at the now distant lift. That was the final straw, he was done. Time to go back to his office and write a snotty mail to the maintenance team about their over-aggressive energy-saving policy. There was no way Medusa was still here, she must have slithered off home, probably hours ago. He turned to head back the way he’d came and spotted a light out of the corner of his eye in one of the cubicles. He leaned his head around the corner. A dark hooded figure was sat hunched over the table.
“There you are!” he exclaimed.
The figure didn’t react, the hairs on his neck did. Something wasn’t right. Maybe it was the way she shuffled and jerked in the seat or the way her hand seemed to be madly scribbling with unnerving speed. He wasn’t sure but he didn’t like it.
“Hello!” he pleaded, just a little louder.
Still no reaction, she continued her jerking shaking scribbling. He remembered his phone and shone its bright light into the cubicle. With a start she’d sprung up, twisting like a serpent and shot towards him. He staggered backwards, tripping and hitting his head on the adjacent cubicle wall as he went down. The phone tumbled from his hand. She threw back her hood to reveal a tangled nest of hissing dancing red snakes and slowly she slithered towards him. He was paralysed frozen with fear, staring into her blazing green eyes turned him to stone.
“Oh my, are you ok,” she shouted.
“For Christ’s sake,” he said, the sense of relief flooded through him.
“What? Oh hang on,” she hissed, removing her earphones. “You shouldn’t creep up on people.”
“Are you Medusa, sorry Sarah?” he stuttered.
“Yes”. Her flame-red hair still slithered and writhed disturbingly backlit by the table lamp.
He tried his best to ignore it. “You got a problem with your computer?”
“Yes, it’s frozen again. They all keep freezing,” she said pointing to the computers on her table, “I’ve only got to look at it and it seems to die. Both of these are dead.”
“Okay,” he said rubbing his head. Thankful that normality seemed to be getting the upper-hand.
“Are you okay, do you need a hand,” she said suddenly concerned. She extended a helping hand.
He reached out instinctively and wished he hadn’t. An arching bolt of electricity crackled between them. The pain shot up his arm. “Ouch”
“Oh I’m sorry that keeps happening,” she said, withdrawing her hand.
He was feeling battered and bruised as he pulled himself up off the floor. At least the snakes had settled down a bit.
“Okay, Med”, he quickly corrected himself, “Sarah, is it? We’ve talked about this before,” he said pointing at her feet.
She looked down perplexed. He tried to jog her memory. “Your shoes, remember.”
“Oh”, she exclaimed, with a sudden realisation, “They generate static”.
He nodded, “Yes, you’re zapping everything again.”
She was suddenly embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, I totally forgot. I’m in such a panic I have this deadline and I haven’t slept”. She started pulling her boots off.
“Ok, ok don’t worry,” he said, “Let’s get you back online.”
He always felt sorry for the interns, he knew how the editors treated them, but this was the third time in as many months someone had needed to give her some fashion tips. She was racking up quite the kill count. At least the snakes in her hair had finally settled down, no longer angered by the nylon carpet.
He was glad to get back to the basement. Trevor was still killing orcs in some far-flung dungeon. “Ah, Perseus returneth. Have you slain the gorgon?’
“She won’t be killing anything else tonight,” Mike said slumping back into his seat, rubbing the bruise on his head.