As you may recall, in my last post I talked about a short story challenge. So, late last night, I wrote a short story. It took me just under three hours, starting at 10:42 and finishing at 1:29. The final word count was 2662.
It was rather fun.
And now, as per the rules of the challenge, I present it to you for your reading pleasure!
Attack on Trowbridge
“Trowbridge Institute is under lockdown.”
Georgie jerked her head toward the intercom speaker. A slice of fear went through her stomach. “All employees and interns please secure nearest patients. This is not a drill.”
This is not a drill.
Georgie’s chest tightened, her breathing got shallower, and her hands started shaking. Lockdown. Lockdown meant a renegade patient or intruders.
This is not a drill.
She took a deep breath. Calm down. She had to calm down. Needed to secure nearest patients.
She ran to the nearest map of the institution. She was in the North Wing which meant… which meant the nearest patients were the new batch. The weird ones. “Incurables,” according to staff gossip.
The slice of fear cut deeper, but she had to do it. She just had to hope someone else was there to secure them too.
She took off at a run down the hall, passing the janitorial closets and laundry rooms. A two minutes and a leg cramp later, she was in front of the doors. The doors to the Solitary wing. No one else was there. Why wasn’t anyone else there? Surely someone else would have been close by…
Georgie took the key ring off her belt and forced the right key into the lock, her sweaty hands slipping on the doorknob.
The door swung open to reveal a short hallway with seven doors. One of them opened. A patient’s door. Georgie swallowed. The patients’ doors should have been locked.
A teenaged girl stuck her head out, one hand tangled in her red hair. She shook, eyes wide. “Someone’s coming,” she said. A tear slipped down her face and she tugged at her hair. “Someone’s coming. Help us.”
Georgie’s instincts kicked in. “Don’t worry, I’ll help. Just calm down.” She took the file out of the pocket next to the door. Darcy Moorland, 16. Debilitating anxiety.
Only anxiety. Okay.
“Don’t worry, Darcy, I’m here to help. You go back in your room, and I’ll make sure everything is safe out here.”
Darcy shook her head, breath coming in sharp gasps. “No, someone is coming, you have to help us!”
Oh, why wasn’t there anyone else to help out? “Don’t worry, I’ll help. Take a deep breath, that’s right. No one is going to hurt you. Go back in your room and you’ll be just fine.”
She shook her head, fast and jerky. “No, I won’t be. Someone is coming.” She tugged at her hair again, pulling out a handful.
Georgie changed tactics. “I have to check on the other patients. Can you stay in your room until I’m done? It’ll only be a couple minutes.”
“Can’t I come with you?”
Strictly against protocol, especially considering this girl was one of the “incurables” and had somehow opened her door. But she would tear herself apart if Georgie left her alone. “Okay, but you have to calm down and stay quiet, all right?”
Darcy nodded. The two of them moved to the next door, Darcy sticking to Georgie’s side like a shadow. Georgie grabbed the file first. Harriot Fairfax, 31. Schizophrenic—talks to people who aren’t there.
Georgie peeked in the window. There was another pair of eyes staring back at her. They blinked. “Max says something’s going on,” Harriot said. “What’s going on?”
“Someone’s coming,” Darcy said.
Georgie cursed in her head. But instead of freaking out, Harriot just nodded. She looked off to the side. “Go find out who.” When she looked back at Georgie she said, “I’ve sent Max to investigate.” She smiled.
At least she wasn’t throwing a fit. “Good,” Georgie said. “There’s no need to worry.”
Harriot nodded and turned away from the door.
Georgie turned to Darcy. “I need you to be quiet, okay?”
Darcy nodded. “Sorry…”
The moved to the next door. Ed Bennett, 13. Schizophrenia—hears voices. And his sister, Elle Bennett, 13. Debilitating social anxiety.
Twins. So young. Georgie peeked through the window. The twins were facing each other.
“Fear,” Elle said. “Lots of fear. Confusion.” She put her head between her knees.
“More voices,” Ed said. “Two more.” He looked at the door, at Georgie. Then he put his head in his hands. “Too many voices.”
Elle started humming. After a second Ed joined in. That seemed to calm them down. Georgie didn’t recognize the tune.
Well, at least they weren’t hurting themselves or each other.
Georgie and Darcy moved to the last door. Lydia Woodhouse, 26. Delusional—believes she can fly. Potentially suicidal.
Great. Georgie peeked in the window—
“You need to get to the hallway,” Darcy said. She stared at the floor and bit her lip. “Someone’s going to say something. You need to be in the hallway to hear it.”
“What?” Georgie looked in Lydia’s room. She had an art kit, and was drawing with pastels. The walls were covered in sketches. Birds, dragons, butterflies, bats, griffins—all things with wings. There were little sketches of things with wings on her hands and arms.
Darcy tugged at Georgie’s arm. “You have to be in the hallway! Go!”
Georgie went. Everyone but Darcy seemed well enough. She closed the door to the North Wing and put her forehead against it. Everyone was secure, but she needed to do something about Darcy. Maybe—
“Is this thing working?”
Georgie jumped and looked at the intercom speaker. She didn’t know that voice. It was some man, but she didn’t know that voice.
“It is working! Sweet. Okay, friends, here’s the deal. We don’t want to hurt anyone, we just need some patients. Some special patients, brought here under mysterious circumstances during a full moon…”
“Really? Do you have to be so dramatic?” said another, fainter, female voice. “This was a terrible idea. We’re so getting fired.”
“Shush! I’m making our demands!”
“You’re pretending to be a super villain.”
“Am not! Just let me do my thing.” He cleared his throat. “We will not leave until we have: Ed and Elle Bennett, Harriot Fairfax, Darcy Moorland, and Lydia Woodhouse.”
The patients she’d just visited.
“We are armed. We have rooty-tooty-point-and-shooties.”
“All we want is the patients. We won’t harm them. This doesn’t have to be hard.”
A loud shriek pierced Georgie’s ears, as if someone were speaking too close to the microphone.
“Ow!” said the man.
“You’re wasting our time! Come on let’s just go find them.”
Grumbling, then silence.
Georgie cursed in her head again. What was she supposed to do now?
This wasn’t covered in the orientation seminar.
Someone knocked on the door from the inside. Georgie cracked it. Darcy. “They’re coming.”
“I know.” Wait…how had Darcy known? Before she said someone was coming. How had she known?
“Harriot says Max can help. Come on.”
Georgie looked around. Maybe now that the names of the targeted patients were known, backup would come.
“Come on!” Darcy said, tugging at Georgie’s sleeve. Georgie let herself be pulled to Harriot’s door.
Who cared about protocol anymore?
Harriot was waiting at the window again. “Max says that out that door,”—she pointed to the door that lead to the patio where the patients could get some sunshine—“and across the yard there’s an old outbuilding with an old storm cellar that’s big enough for the six of us. We should be safe there. They won’t be able to find us.”
Georgie blinked. “How did you know about the storm cellar…?”
“Max told me. He built the outbuilding before he died.”
Darcy nodded. “Let’s go.” She tugged at the key ring on Georgie’s belt.
“Hey!” Georgie snapped, jerking away. Darcy shrank back, and tangled her hand in her hair again.
Georgie closed her eyes. She had a bunch of patients who were being targeted by intruders for goodness knew what reason.
There was no protocol for this.
Her duty was to the patients. She had to keep them safe. And the storm cellar was a good idea… if she could get them there without losing them.
“How do I know you won’t run away once we get outside?”
“Where would we go? Max says there are fences everywhere that look pretty but aren’t if you touch them.”
She had a point there.
If the intruders were in the office with the intercom, then they had access to the records, which meant they could easily find out where these patients were. They didn’t have more time to think.
“Okay, let’s go, but you have to promise to stay close and not wander off. Hold hands, preferably.”
Darcy and Harriot nodded. Georgie unlocked Harriot’s door. Harriot swished out and immediately linked arms with Darcy. She was wearing what looked to be very cheap Great Gatsby cosplay: a drop waist dress, and a pair of kitten heels. Georgie just shook her head and moved to the next door.
The twins. As she opened the door, Darcy said “More voices are coming…um, boy. Prepare.”
The twins faced them. Ed’s eyes locked on Georgie. He cocked his head. “We’re going somewhere. Somewhere to be safe from…”
“From whatever is causing the fear and confusion,” Elle said.
How did they know? “Yes, we are. You—”
“We won’t run,” Ed said. “And we’ll do as you say.”
Georgie blinked. “Good. Come with us.”
The twins winced as they joined the others. “Too much,” Ed said.
Elle nodded. “Too much.” They started humming again.
Georgie ignored it. She didn’t know what “too much” meant and she had to get them all to safety. She let Lydia out and the six of them headed for the door to the outside.
As the last person got through, Darcy said “They’re here.”
A second later, someone started pounding on the door to the North Wing.
She didn’t need to tell them twice. They bolted across the patio, Georgie and Harriot in the lead. But as they reached a set of stairs, Lydia whooped and ran ahead. Full speed. Toward the edge.
“Lydia, no!” Georgie screamed. But it was too late.
She expected blood and gore and shrieking…
Instead, wings sprouted from Lydia’s back and soared upward, whooping again.
Georgie’s heart dropped to her stomach. “Did-did she just…?”
“Yes,” said Harriot, taking Georgie’s arm. “Now run.”
“I’m not hallucinating?”
“No, now run!”
Wings? Wings? How was that possible? What if… What if Georgie wasn’t really an employee? What if she was a patient who thought she was an employee? That would explain the wings. She was delusional.
But that didn’t explain the keys on her belt.
They reached the outbuilding with the storm cellar, Lydia coming down in a less-than-graceful landing.
Just get the door open, Georgie told herself. She’d worry about the delusions later. Unless this was just a dream. Yes, this had to be a dream, because wings? Really?
But if it was a dream, she didn’t want it to be a nightmare, so she went to pull open the storm cellar.
It was locked. With a big padlock. That she didn’t have the keys for.
This was officially a nightmare.
She tugged at the doors, as if that would make them open faster.
“They’re coming!” Darcy said, wrapping her hands in her hair. Her face scrunched up and turned red. “They’re coming…and, and…” She paused, opening her eyes. She relaxed. “And that’s good.”
Everyone turned to look at her. The twins stopped humming.
“Confusion,” Elle said. She had been curled up in a ball on the ground. Now she slowly unfolded. “Relief.”
Harriot turned to someone invisible next to her. “Max says these people have guns. How is that good?” She toyed with some of the fringe on her dress.
“They won’t use them on us,” Darcy said. Her brow furrowed, but as if she were solving a puzzle, not confused.
“Found ‘em!” said a voice from the other side of the outbuilding. The man from the intercom. He came around the corner. There were weapons at his sides, but he didn’t draw them. He grinned at them. “Hello. You didn’t have to run, you know.”
Georgie stood. “You don’t know these are the patients you’re looking for.”
The man pointed at Lydia. “The wings kind of give it away.”
Georgie shook her head. “I won’t let you take them. You won’t get away with kidnapping them.”
The man smiled again. “This isn’t a kidnapping. This is a rescue mission.”
“He’s telling the truth,” Ed said. He narrowed his eyes at the man, and his shoulders relaxed. “He’s telling the truth. He wants to help us. He… he thinks we aren’t crazy. Elle?”
Elle nodded, unfurling further. “He’s sincere.”
Harriot huffed. “I have a very long list of doctors who will disagree with that.”
“He thinks we have super powers.”
“I could have told you that,” Lydia said, ruffling her wings.
The man grinned. “You can come out now, Kat. They aren’t going anywhere.”
A woman emerged from a bush behind him. She lowered a gun—a tranquilizer gun, not one with bullets.
“Who are you?” Georgie asked, looking back and forth between the man and the woman.
“My name is Kat, and this is Will. We work for an organization called S.H.E.I.L.D,” the woman—Kat—said. “We find and help people like you.”
“Let me take a guess,” Will said. “Judging from what I’ve read and what I’ve now seen. Lydia, you can fly, obviously. Harriot can see ghosts and communicate with them. Ed and Elle have some sort of mind reading ability.”
“Emotions,” Elle said. “I see emotions. He sees thoughts.”
Will nodded, smiling a lopsided smile. “Nice. And Darcy…I’m not sure. What’s your super power?”
Darcy stared at him for a moment. Georgie thought she wasn’t going to answer, and then she said, “I sense things before they happen.”
Will gave her a thumbs up. “Cool.”
“So, we’re not crazy?” Darcy said.
“Nope,” Kat said. “You need help, but you’re not crazy.” She looked at Will. “This is the part where he makes you an offer.”
Will glared at her. “I was just about to say ‘this is the part where I make you an offer.’”
Kat smiled. “I know.”
“If you want to come with us,” Will said, turning back to the patients, “we have a facility waiting for you where you’ll get all the help you need, and we’ll teach you how to control your powers. You won’t feel crazy anymore.”
Ed and Elle looked at each other. “I won’t hear voices anymore?” Ed asked.
“Only the ones you want to hear,” Kat said, “and only when you want to hear them. Trust me, I was rescued just like we’re rescuing you now. I can read minds too.” She smiled at Ed.
“I’m in,” Lydia said.
The others nodded.
“Fantastic,” Will said. He tapped something in his ear. “Mina, you ready with the getaway car? We’ve got five more passengers coming.
“Now you,” Will said, looking at Georgie, “Have a choice. You can stay here at your job and forget the last hour happened, or you can come with us. Which would you prefer? It doesn’t make a difference to us either way.”
Georgie looked around at everyone staring at her. “What would I do at this…facility?”
“We can always use an extra hand,” Kat said, “These folks may have super powers, but they also need help. We need people who can give that help.”
“Fair warning,” Will said, “it gets messy, and sometimes organizations like ours don’t mix well with private lives…”
“Often, actually,” Kat said.
“But the choice is yours. Endless wonder working for an organization that trains superheroes, or...” he turned around and looked at Trowbridge. “Whatever it is you get working there.”
“He’s clearly not biased,” Kat said.
Georgie thought for a moment. Her decision came down to one truth: she never wanted to live through another day like this again. “I think I’ll take the forgetting option.”
Will looked surprised, but he shrugged. “Whatever you say.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a flask. “Drink this.” Georgie did. It tasted like bananas and ginger and…
When she woke up, she had no idea how she’d gotten from inventory to the yard.
This was a fun story to write. I may have to write more about these people sometime.
Happy New Year, my friends! Let's make 2015 a good one.