The Iron Writer Challenge #152
2016 Winter Equinox Finals
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Dwight Wade, Tina Biscuit, Dani J. Caile, Alis VanDoorn
Can’t Make This Stuff Up
William drag- pushed- hefted, the last of Abbie’s roughly 10,000 lbs. of gear into the back of her uber cool ‘research vehicle’; Mercedes G class SUV.
“Still can’t believe research scientists are paid so well.” teased William, nodding towards Poindexter.
“Poindexter was my Daddy’s. Now help me load this last thing.”
“What last thing and where is it?”
“In the back yard. Self-explanatory.” Abbie had a way with words and spiders. And William.
“A mini tramp is invaluable in the field.”
“Wish you’d wait. I’m worried”
“I’ll be fine.” Abby said with her usual lack of concern. “Only thing I’m worried about is you and William Tiny eating crap for two weeks.”
At this William Tiny, hearing his name, danced out, looking adorable, vulnerable and bereft.
“Alright, I’m off! Love you both!”
Abbie breathed deep, missing her Williams, but to document her Ph.D. thesis; that an American wandering spider of the genus Phoneutria located in a specific cave system existed, she had to go. Red haired fangs, deadly venomous bite, causing long painful erections in men, previously found in South America. Abbie knew she was correct in her theory; only about twelve hours, and some zig zag bits from Salt Lake City, before deep in her cave, at the border of Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, she could prove it.
Days later, in his lab, Williams’s seismic equipment went crazy. But it wasn’t in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, as expected; it was at the very east of the Wasatch Fault. Exactly where Abbie was.
“Let’s go, WT. Now!” roared William.
Driving faster than his ancient SUV would go, portable seismic equipment hooked up and riding shotgun, with a satellite connection to his lab, his colleagues keeping him up to date, William raced. He had 17 hours to get 15 hours plus, locate Abbie’s unknown cave. Didn’t have to be a genius to get the handwriting on the wall of this disaster.
16 hours later, using every piece of technology available, William (and WT) screeched into Abbie’s campsite, grabbed her keys, cranked Poindexter, made sure the tow rope was on, and using the GPS, barreled towards her, tremors starting, earth starting to shift.
He raced to the GPS directed location, screamed “Abbie!”, just as she exited the cave, triumphantly holding a bagged specimen, her look quickly turning to terror.
“Grab onto me!” screamed William, having looped the tow ring around himself. Abbie grabbed William, he looped the tow line around her, just as the earth started dropping away in front of them. Abbie screamed.
“No! I’ve dropped my specimen proof!”
And at that moment William Tiny leapt from the SUV, dashed passed Abbie, falling off into the quake abyss.
Abbie grabbed WT’s tail, screaming “Don’t let go William!”
“I won’t!” ”Urrrph!”
William hit Drive on the key remote, and slowly they were pulled to safety.
“My specimen”, moaned Abbie. “The cave is gone, I’ll never get proof again.”
Just then Tiny William pushed his wet nose, holding Abbie’s Specimen bag, intact into her hand.
“Oh! William! You are my hero!” Both Williams smiled with pride and a chest puff.
Cat On A Hot Twin Roof
‘It’s a big cat; looks like it’s turned turtle.’
Robert passed the binoculars to Phil, who steadied himself against the forestay.
‘Can we get closer?’
‘Sure, we’re drifting that way. Hit the plotter; mark the position.’
‘Do you think there’s anyone in it?’
‘Possibly, but alive – I doubt it. Get the dinghy out, Phil. It’s like a mill pond, we can row over.’
Phil pumped up the dinghy, and dropped it overboard. The catamaran’s hulls gleamed white, like two featureless whales sleeping on the argent ocean. Robert pulled on a dry-suit, and they climbed into the dinghy. Phil started to row, while Robert cleaned his diving mask. They bumped gently into one of the upturned hulls. Phil grabbed the nearest rudder, and steadied the dinghy.
With the handle of his knife, Robert tapped hard on the fibreglass; it vibrated like a drum. They listened, in the vain hope of a reply.
‘I’m going down, Phil. Keep an eye on the horizon: if the sky goes dark, there’s a line-squall coming through – maybe that’s what got these guys – If you see anything, bang hard on the hull.’
‘OK, Robert, how long will you be?’
‘As long as I can hold my breath.’
Robert started cutting through some webbing between the hull and the cockpit.
‘Do you think they got caught in that netting, Robert?’
‘No, that’s the “tramp”; a trampoline for the crew to walk on. I’m cutting it away to get closer to the cabin.’
‘Well, be careful there’s not a big spider in there, luring you onto its web.’
‘Not funny, Phil, I might find some unpleasant stuff inside, but it won’t be spiders.’
With barely a splash, he slipped into the turbid waters. Phil set his stopwatch, and peered at the black figure descending into the gloom. Every thirty seconds, he looked again: he looked at the horizon, which hadn’t changed; he tapped his watch; he leaned over, and looked down. Eventually, some bubbles surfaced, then a waterproof bag, and finally, Robert. He clambered into the dinghy, and removed his mask.
‘Anyone in there, Robert.’
‘Not a soul, and the sails were rolled away, so a line-squall didn’t flip them. The life raft is still there, and I found their grab-bag. Let’s get back to our boat, and have a look.’
Back on the boat, Robert dried himself as Phil emptied the bag onto the table: some food sachets, water, a knife, and a first-aid kit. Then he saw the book: a small, leather-bound notebook, wrapped in clear plastic. He ran his fingers over the foil-blocked lettering: F.U.K.…
‘Any clues, Phil.’
‘It’s the logbook of the “Fukushima”, Robert. I can’t read much of the handwriting, but this doesn’t look good.’
‘What is it?’
‘Their marriage was in the doldrums; she doesn’t sound happy.’
‘I know that feeling’, said Robert.
‘She says the water is bubbling all around them.’
‘I’m trying to read the last line, the writing’s really shaky.’
‘Yeah, real shaky, Robert – earthquake shaky.’
Phil passed the book.
‘They must have known what was coming. I can’t make it out either, Phil.’
‘What would your last line be?’
Spiders and Earthquakes and Snakes (Oh, My)
The sun hung high over head as the muscular figure cut his way through the dense jungle foliage. Sweat ran freely down his forehead, flooding his eyes with stinging saltwater. The jungle seemed to fight back harder with every swing of his machete. His shoulders burned and ached at the hours long effort to clear a path.
How many days had he been in this cursed jungle? He’d lost count through his exhaustion but it had to have been more than a week. Seven or more days sweating off weight faster than he could eat it back. Seven or more nights of fitful sleep amongst the ants and the snakes and the spiders on the jungle floor. He could have sworn there was a minor earthquake yesterday too, but that could easily have been delirium. Or exhaustion fueled vertigo. Or both.
Two more hard swings and he pushed his way through and especially gnarly tangle of vines. He stepped out into a clearing. Well, not exactly a clearing in the traditional sense, more of a small hole where the foliage wasn’t completely enclosed. Regardless, his shoulders would welcome a respite from their vine induced torment.
As he stepped past the twist of vines and brush his ears immediately drew him to the glassy trickle of a stream. He turned to see twisting curls of crystal clear water, no more than a meter across, snaking along the jungle floor. He strode to the bank and fell to his knees, sinking an inch or two in softened earth at the waters edge. His left knee creaked against the sudden motion, stiffened from days of effort on top of a traumatic childhood trampoline injury.
He reached for his pack and in one motion pulled out a canteen, twisted the cap and plunged the container into the water. The water, factually warmer than his tap at home, felt like ice against his overheated skin. He withdrew the canteen, dropped a purification tablet inside and swirled it around before taking a long pull.
The water, cold against his hand, felt like heaven as it cascaded down his throat. His whole body tingled as a cold pleasure encompassed him. He often found it amazing how an activity, so mundane in his “normal” life, became so extraordinary in extreme circumstances.
His thirst quenched, the man placed the canteen back in the water, dropped another tablet inside and placed the newly filled vessel in his pack. He stood again, knee aching all the way up, and cuffed the mud from his pants. He reached to the other side of his pack and brought out a folded yellow parchment.
The centuries old handwriting had faded to a dull grey, as had the crude diagrams. Faint as they were, both were still discernible. He perused the markings for several minutes, trying his best to orient his current location to those marked on the decayed document. After several minutes he re-folded the paper, placing it back in it’s pocket.
It was here. He was close.
His shoulder screamed as he raised the machete once more.
He was close.
Dani J Caile
Some kids have great grandparents. They go to this big, fancy house, meet this old but ’oh-so-happy’ couple who shower them with presents and praise and feed them the best food like pizza and chips and stuff, and then they take you to the mall and buy you tons of cool things, and they’ll play Xbox with you – they’re terrible at playing, of course – they’re old, what do you expect? But that’s not the point, they’re happy to do it. And when you leave, they want you back as soon as poss!
Not me. I have one grandma who lives with us. She’s a mean old witch who’ll steal your food from your plate without a second thought. Literally. I caught her sneaking down to the kitchen the other night and eating two liters, yes, two liters of chocolate ice cream from the freezer. Then she blamed it on me the next morning. Mum and Dad didn’t believe me when I told them it was her. You see, she’s wheelchair-bound. Apparently. We even had to install a chair lift on the stairs. I hurt my feet on that damn thing almost every day.
“What do you call this, Billy?” Oh crap. Here she goes. “Looks like some spider just walked all over this paper.”
“What?” My school essay! Someone scribbled all over it!
“Your handwriting’s atrocious, boy!”
“Did you…?” Mother’s appeared. Damn. And off the witch goes, cackling away in her electric chair.
“Billy! Leave your Grandma alone, she needs her afternoon nap. Go and play in the garden.”
“I’m not eight anymore, Mum, I’m twelve.”
“Go outside and read, then.”
“Okay.” At least I’ll get some peace from ’her’… Ouch! What was that? Would you believe it, I got hit by a plastic pellet! That’s Grandma again, with her catapult. She’s so mean and nasty. And heartless. The only time I ever saw her showing anything related to ’love’, if you could call it that, was when she was frightened of the earthquake last year, holding onto Mum for safety. She was shaking like a leaf. Any sudden movement can set her off.
But I’m out of range now and the sun’s shining. Glad Mum told me to go outside. I might even have a jump on our outdoor trampoline, it’s so nice…
Hang on, I’ve got an idea! Is she asleep? Yes, I can already hear her snoring. It doesn’t take her long. Quick…wheel her out…unzip the flexinet…can I lift her?…yes, she weighs almost nothing! Gently…now, I’ll get in…stand at the edge and jump… and…she’s up!
“Earthquake! Earthquake! Ahhhh!”
It worked! There she goes! Off the trampoline, through the net, and down the garden on her scrawny little legs. Wow, can she move! This is so funny!
Oops, Mum’s out, she’ll see everything. Maybe they’ll believe me about the ice cream now.
“Billy! What are you doing? What the hell? Mother? You can… you can walk?”
This is so much payback, I can tell ya!
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