The Iron Writer Challenge #132
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Mathew W. Weaver, Mamie Pound, Christopher A. Liccardi, Maureen Larter, Jason T. Carter
An old, rusty, mysterious truck
Ding Dong Ditch (begins at 40 second mark in the video)
Story about a town called Gone, no one know where it is or how to get there, but everyone knows it exists.
A character who can reads thoughts
Family vacation – more like family from hell taking a yearlong torture drive across the unknown. The “new car” smelled like old crap and rust. Walter was stuck in it for another three months at least.
“Junior, get the map out and see where our next rest stop is. Gramps needs to stretch his wooden leg a bit.”
“You mean drain it. Sheesh. We been drivin’ for near on five hours without a single stop.” Gramps spat. His teeth were in a jar in the cup holder. Walter had been watching them slosh around for nearly an hour.
“None of that sass, Gramps.” Dad shouted over the 8-track playing sounds of ‘Doorbells from Around the World’, a dismal collection of doorbell sounds he’d found on Intergalactic Shoppers Network. Dying cats would have sounded better.
“Sass this. Some of us is old as this bucket we’re tooting around in and leak just as often.” Gramps said. “Can’t we just translocate to where we’re going and get this over with?”
“No Gramps. Walter wasn’t around when people used to take actual vacations. Now it’s all holographic phooey. He’s never done anything but warp velocity space travel. Besides this “bucket” is a classic from Earth’s history.” Dad retorted.
Walter sunk in to his bucket seat in the back. The Jitney could hold 20 people, but it was just him and Gramps this trip. His father had been so proud he found this old thing that Walter didn’t have the heart tell him the junk dealer could read minds and had taken his father for twice what this battle jitney was worth.
Walter pulled the map out, remembering his father had asked him to look for the next stop. Even the map they used was old fashioned, wrinkled dingy paper. Walter knew his father had a fervor for antiquities, but paper?
“What’s the next town we’re going to, Dad?” Walter asked, mostly not caring what the answer was. He wanted to be back home with his friends playing battlefield games or talking to his girlfriend, not sitting in the back of a Herkimer Jitney from the early 1950’s. Looking at this wreck made him wonder how humans ever got in to the space age.
“It’s an old town called Gone and it’s somewhere up ahead. Do you see it on the map?” Walter’s dad asked as another track from “Doorbells” began to clang inside the metal cab.
Walter scoured the map, looking at the old markings but not finding anything that said Gone. He pulled out his micro computer and booted it up. The comforting chime of his modern-age technology made him smile.
“Son, that’s cheating. This is supposed to be an old fashioned family vacation.” His father said.
But Dad, it’s not a real place. The intergalactic google search shows that nobody’s ever been able to find Gone. It’s a myth.” Walter said.
“That’s the challenge, Walter. If we can find it, we can play Ding Dong Ditch, like Gramps used to when he was a kid.” His father pleaded.
Walter closed the computer, knowing it was going to be a very long family vacation.
Mathew W. Weaver
“Grandpa, you forgot something!”
The old man paused. Two faces peeped from under the thick blankets, eyes bright and beckoning.
“I believe so,” he said. He closed the door and walked back to the beds.
“Wass it gonna be this time, Gwampa?” the boy grinned.
The old man settled in the chair.
“Well, how about the one with the town called Gone?” he suggested, “The one that…”
“…evvybody knows about…” the boy interrupted.
“…and no one knows how to get to,” his sister finished, “You told us that Captain Yealster story last week.”
“Did I?” the old man’s brow furrowed, “Hmm.”
His eyes cleared.
“I bet you haven’t heard about the one where we captured the Ding-Dong-Ditch bandit?”
The girl sat up straighter.
“Well, Captain Yealster and I tracked him down to an abandoned planetoid,” he began, “And his Transdimensional Train had crash landed, and was nothing but a worthless, rust covered engine that wasn’t going anywhere…”
“Give it up, Dong, you’re beaten!” the Captain called.
“Or so you think, Yealster!” Dong screamed.
The blaster fire lanced past us.
“How long till his ammo runs out?” I muttered.
“I’ve crates here, boy!” Dong hollered, “I’m set for months!!”
“He reads minds, I warned you before we landed,” the Captain frowned, “Don’t think of a plan.”
“Then how are we supposed to…?”
The Captain leaped around the rock. Plasma blasters in each hand, he ran at the cluster of crates, spraying fire.
I followed him, my blaster drawn.
Then… noise behind me, heat searing across my leg, incinerating it from the knee downwards. I screamed and fell, even as Dong laughed, the traces of teleportation halo still flickering around his body armor. We’d messed up.
Captain Yealster spun around. It was with deliberation that he aimed and fired, point blank.
Dong choked in mid laughter. He stumbled back, eyes wider than they had ever been.
“But…” he gasped, “You… you never kill…”
The Captain fired again.
Dong hit the ground, eyes wide, a hole smoking in his chest.
Dropping the guns, the Captain scrambled to my side, his face betraying his fear.
“You’re gonna be alright, kid,” he said.
“It burns…” I whimpered.
“You’re going to be fine,” he promised, “You’re going to be fine,”
“So Captain Yealster tackled him, and tied him up,” the old man smiled, “And that’s how he went to prison.”
“Don’t be silly, Gwampa!” the boy giggled, “You’re leg’s right there!”
“This?” the man smiled, “It’s a bionic one I had fitted on. It’s designed to look human.”
“You’re lying!” the girl protested.
“Goes to show how well it works,” he winked, “And now, it’s time to sleep.”
He paused at the door.
Absent mindedly, he walked down the passage. His left leg spasmed abruptly, forcing him onto one knee. An insistent whining interrupted the calm, very much like the grinding of a reluctant gear.
“Damn it,” he muttered.
The whirring ceased. Cautiously, he stood and tested his weight on the malfunctioning limb.
“Running out of spare parts,” he sighed, “Only a matter of time now,”
He descended the stairs, and there was silence.
The huge truck drove slowly along what appeared to be some sort of a road.
Jan scanned the landscape of this forbidding place. The truck had been a huge find, but it reminded her of the ancient movie ‘Mad Max’ they had seen when they were on their home planet. Now, all they had was each other.
“Do you think we’re anywhere near the town?” she asked her sidekick. Shirl glared out of the scratched windows.
“We know there’s a town somewhere on this godforsaken planet – don’t know where tho’. We’ve got to try and find it. “
“Who’d be stupid enough to call a town ‘Gone”?” she muttered.
“We know it exists, just don’t know where! Hey – look! Maybe that’s it!”
A line of huts appeared to the right of them.
“Stop.” Shirl said.
As the truck slid to a shuddering halt, she jumped out, raced over to the nearest building and knocked on the door.
Jan saw her step back hurriedly then raced back to the vehicle.
“What did you do? Ding dong ditch the place?” Jan was puzzled.
“Drive!” Shirl yelled. “You should have seen the thing that was coming to answer the door – I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Just keep driving!”
Jan shuddered. “Do ya’ think it was one of those creatures that can read your mind?”
Shirl shook her head.
“Nope! It looked like a cross between a dragon and a werewolf! This planet’s creepy! I wish we could find the town – maybe it’s got a spaceport and we can get out of here!”
Jan kept driving!
The rust on the bumper bar and the front of the half-buried truck was eating its way towards the cabin.
Greg turned to the contingent of rescue robots and grimaced.
‘Pity they never found the town,” he mumbled as he looked at the skeletons slumped over the huge steering wheel. “Maybe they would have survived!”
Jason T. Carter
The screams echoed throughout the junkyard. We followed the sound all the way to a rusty hunk in the middle of the heap. Using anything we could find as levers, we pried open the door and found dad inside the Herkimer Battle Jitney. Covered in sweat, when the light from outside fell over him he shut his eyes tight. “Dad, it’s okay, we’ve got you.”
We pulled him out of the dilapidated machine and took him to the hospital, where they ran test after test. “Dad, where have you been?” For five months we searched, never giving up hope. But there was no sign of him anywhere until the junkyard owner called the police.
Dad turned his head away from my voice and trembled. “Not tonight,” he said. He needed rest.
I slept in the chair next to his hospital bed. Annette wanted me to come home, but I could not leave him; I didn’t want him to disappear again. I knew where he went, even if he didn’t want to tell me. I had heard the stories growing up, but never wanted to believe them. No one really knew where it was or how to get there, but if you went, you didn’t come back whole, if at all.
After lunch, I broached the subject again. “Dad, where were you?”
This time his eyes locked onto mine, making me want to turn away, but I couldn’t. His periwinkle eyes pierced into mine, forcing me to stare back. “Gone.” He trembled again, but kept his grip on me with his eyes.
He shuddered, pushing his words out with force. “They rang the doorbell. Twice. But there was no one there. I thought it was those punks down the road, playing ding dong ditch again. On the third ring, I stepped out onto the porch, but I wasn’t on the porch anymore. I was somewhere…else.”
“For five months?”
“No, it didn’t feel like five months. It felt like five minutes. But I knew where I was.” At this, he broke his visual connection with me, looking off into a corner.
“How did you know?”
“Your mother was there. She looked just like she did the day she disappeared, eleven years ago. I mean, same clothes, same hairstyle, same everything. Hadn’t aged a day.”
My heart sank. I knew she didn’t want to leave us, and that she would come back if she could. I just knew it. And dad knew it too, even if he didn’t want to admit it.
“How did you get back?”
“Why don’t you ask the other question? I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t I bring her home?”
“Well…” I started, but he cut me off.
“She’s not your mother anymore, Charles. And I’m not your father. This is his body, and this is his mind, this isn’t his heart.”
“Then, who are you?”
“He’s got something real bad locked up in his mind,” she said, “darkness follows him like a stray dog.”
“You’re drunk, Delilah,” Earl said. “He paid his debt to society. Leave him alone.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Earl,” she hissed. “I know things.”
“You better watch out, old lady, or they’ll come for you again,” he said.
Not even Earl believed her story about the dogs disappearing into the night sky.
She spent three years in the state hospital in Gone, Alabama, before they cured her of her delusions. She was scared to leave, anyway. At least there, people were always around, watching, ready to pull her back to earth should she fly away. She figured Earl would let her float off into space.
That same night she had the delusions, there were electrical surges, doorbells rang and no one was there, strange music played on the television and the man’s wife disappeared.They never found his wife, just her clothes scattered across the backyard, her husband’s footprints nearby.
People testified that he was crazed, unstable.
He spent ten years in prison for felony evidence tampering because he refused to testify, because he couldn’t speak a word.
People said guilt would do that to you.
But after being home a few months, neighbors forgot his past. They came to think of him as a regular guy. Few believed him capable of murder. He planted a garden, painted his house, joined a church.
Then a child disappeared.
Police searched his house, his car, his property. Cadaver dogs found a doll in the muddy field behind his house.
But there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him, and some talked of taking matters into their own hands.
“Something else got that child, not him,” Delilah said.
A vigil was held. People prayed, lit candles, posted pictures.
The ex-con got death threats. Someone firebombed his car.
Fear and guilt taunted him. Until one night, he turned off the porch light, set a bottle of beer on the railing and leaned a shotgun against the wall. He took a seat in the rocking chair and cradled a second gun in his lap.
He scanned the sky.
Delilah watched him from her kitchen window.
She closed her eyes. “They’re coming back for him, and he knows it,” she whispered.
Sometime after midnight, the hair on his arms stood on end. A blinding spotlight appeared above the trees. He stood, cocked his rifle and aimed for the sky.
At that same moment, Delilah awoke from a dream. His thoughts, memories of his wife’s disappearance, played in her mind:
Darkness eclipsed the noonday sun.
A violent shudder rattled the pine trees. Then they stood stock still, in mute deference.
Emmaline’s long, blonde hair flew straight up, as if someone had turned her upside down, but her bare feet still held to the cool, damp earth. The air smelled of diesel and burning sugar. She heard him scream and turned to see him running toward her, calling her name, reaching for her, falling into the soft muddy field.
Silence overtook him.
And she flew farther and farther away.
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