The Iron Writer Challenge #143
2016 Winter Solstice Challenge #1
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
The Australian rock icons AC/DC
A ghost town
A rattlesnake – dead or alive or just the skin
Search for Survival
Atieno had just completed her high school level. She was an orphan brought up by her grandmother Akumu who was a single mother. They lived in Bondo at Kisumu County, neither did she had a vision to further her education. As she had gone to fetch some firewood with her grandmother, she broke to her the news that was willing to travel to Mombasa to look for greener pastures.
Akumu dropped down her bunch of firewood that she carried from her top of her head. Atieno hurriedly held her grandmother’s hand as she explained to her how she couldn’t watch any longer her siblings suffer. Tears rolling down her cheeks as she begged for blessings from her grandmother. Akumu was filled with sorrow. She gave all sorts of stories about dangers that were in the coastal region but Atieno was not daunted however, in fact she was determined whatever would come on her way, she was more than ready.
As it was getting dark they hurried back home. Although Akumu barely said a word till they got home. Atieno dropped down her firewood right away in the doorstep of their muddy kitchen. Her siblings were all gathered as they surrounded their three stoned fire as they roasted maize. Atieno grabbed her three legged wooden stool as she sat next to her siblings.
”Dani ! (Meant grandma in Luo dialect),” Atieno shouted.
Grandma came in as all looked surprised that she got in without whistling just like she did always. ”Are you okey Dani?” Atieno asked.
”Atieno my dear ,I don’t like the idea of going to Mombasa,” Akumu replied.
Atieno’s siblings all gazed at their grandma with their eyes wildly open. They were shocked to hear about their eldest sister moving to the ”ghost town”, like all the villagers referred to the coastal region. Everyone in their village Bondo was convinced that there were ghost like people that caused road accidents within the town. Rumours were also told that there were ghost men and devil worshippers that befriended newbies in the town, later to offer them as sacrifices. How could Atieno’s entire family believe in ghost stories? She felt worried but she was determined to leave.
It was six o’clock in the morning on Friday a week after Atieno had broke the news, she was to leave Bondo to Mombasa. Akumu her grandma had already left to her garden. Atieno hurriedly grabbed her shoulder bag and quickly packed her few clothes and her two pairs of plastic shoes before her siblings woked up. She tiptoed towards the door as she opened and closed with delicate and silence. Atieno quickly left her compound and rushed towards the bus stop that would take her at Kisumu Town as she planned to purchase Mombasa ticket once she got at Kisumu.
Two days later she arrived in Mombasa town where she hardly knew anyone, neither did she have an idea where to begin. She came to a nearby restaurant where she got in at the front door she was stopped by two body guards whom were dressed in a black suit.
C Rose Lange
I walk down the road, fairly certain we’re headed the right way. But that’s the thing about my dad. He gets these grand adventures in his head of how he’s going to teach us an important life lesson. Today it’s self-reliance. Jonah squeezes my hand. I don’t squeeze back, I’m four years older after all, but I’m glad to be holding someone’s hand.
After lunch, instead of letting us play on the lake shore with our cousins – which was the whole point of coming to the cabin this summer I’d tried to remind, he led us into the woods. Luckily mom doused Jonah and I with enough bug repellant to send any creepy crawly within a hundred-yard radius screaming for the hills.
After an hour or more, dad dramatically turned around and said “OK kids, take us home.”
So here I am, leading us home. I try to tell myself he would have told me by now if I was going the wrong way, but I know that’s not true. At least I found us a road.
“I’m sposed to meet Heli on Facebook at three, dad,” whines Jonah.
“Am I? You two are in the lead.”
“You’re the adult,” I snap. “You’re not supposed to do this sort of thing.”
“You know what else I am?” says my dad with a gleeful smile.
“Not this again.”
“I’m a – rolling thunder, a pouring rain.”
“If you make it rain I’ll-” I pause to think of a threat. “Never do my homework again.”
“I’m comin’ on like a hurricane,” he sings, air-guitar included. “My lightning’s flashing across the sky. You’re only young but you’re gonna die.”
“Mom said this song’s inappropriate for Jonah.”
“I won’t take no prisoners.” Our dad scoops up Jonah and pins him under his arm. “Won’t spare no lives. Nobody’s putting up a fight.”
I keep marching down the road, trying not to let Hell’s Bells by AC/DC get stuck in my head and failing. I got my bell, I’m gonna take you to hell plays in my head in time with my dad’s falsetto. I’m gonna get you, Satan get you.
I leap away from the side of the road and yowl.
“What’s wrong?” asks my dad, approaching at a wary jog.
I point at the dull-yellow and large-spotted snake in a frozen ‘S’ half on half off the dirt road.
“Why isn’t it moving?” asks Jonah.
“Oh, it’s more scared of us than we are of it,” says our dad.
“That’s spiders,” I say.
“Ah, then maybe it’s skin.”
“Snake skins don’t have heads.” I take a few steps closer. The snake still doesn’t move. I kneel down and peer into its eyes. Their like perfect glass beads, an odd ornament against the flaky scales and slit nostrils. Its stillness disturbs me.
A bell rings out. Once, twice, and one last time. The three of us stand in the middle of the road with the dead snake, staring in the direction of the unexpected sound.
The trees blink out of existence, replaced by old western buildings.
This is it, my nightmare followed me. I’ll never escape the Ghost Town.
A Lesson Learnt
Steven L Bergeron
Lobo Texas, population 15. What use to be a striving community of Culberson county remains nothing but a ghost town between Van Horn and Wylie Mountain. In 2001 three Germans saw potential in its land ,purchased it from Bill Christ in hope of rejuvenating the area. This is where our story begins.
It was Monday morning , I was in my shop near Alpine Animal Shelter when they walked in. They looked German but spoke good English.
“Good Morning Sir are you the owner of this fine establishment.”
“Yes, welcome to Pete’s Animal farm and services. I’m Pete, how may I be of service?”
“My name is Igor Borshevski, this here is Lars, and Mikhail. We are the proprietor of Lobo Texas , and looking for ways to rejuvenate the Ghost town as you call it to what it used to be.”
“What a waste of your good money.”
“On contraire, we have an offer we believe that you can’t pass up. You see we are trying to turn the place into an area where people can come enjoy the arts, culture and ethnic beliefs, American style.”
“This is an animal farm I don’t see how I can make a difference.”
“You see we are trying to organize a festival, to raise money so that we can fix up the town to area standards. We heard that you provide animal shows for local kid’s party. We would like to hire your services?”
“Well a show that magnitude could run you in up words to a few thousand. By the time you pencil in the animals, promotion of your event as well as licensing fees.”
“Money has no object. We already spoke to a music agent. He promised us if we can get this event the ground that your Australians rockers Ac/Dc would be willing to perform pro- bono.”
“Wow AC/DC would make a great turn-out. I will see what I can come up with. I could facebook the event for you, the power of social media can be very affective.”
Two weeks later at was all set up thousand had gathered in Lobo for the biggest event we ever saw. Ac/Dc as always rocked the crowd. The kids enjoyed our show from the exotic birds to our variety of slithering snakes. The Germans plan has on its mark. They took in more than enough capital to rejuvenate this area.
To this date this area should be back to its respectable status. This is what us American are taught to believe. But there was only one like snag in this synopsis. We forgot who we were dealing with. Germans will always be the same. They take what they want, all for them. The money was gone, so was the Germans. Lobo remains a ghost town that is something that we can never change.
The interstate made Blue Gem, Tennessee a time capsule. It was shadowed by a mountain and shaded further by enormous rustling pines. Abandoned trucks, trailers and boarded houses peppered the two-lane road running through its middle.
The bar was in a former mining shack, a hundred-year-old shanty that leaned toward the mountain, giving it the appearance of a child afraid to leave its mother.
He killed the engine and flicked a cigarette out the window. His hooded eyes flashed in the rear-view mirror.
“Ten years. She won’t even know me.” His heart stumbled and started and he climbed out of the rusted Toyota.
Inside, air-conditioned darkness cloaked him. Speakers blared AC/DC. Neon lit the smoky haze.
“What can I get you?” She said.
“Gimme a beer.”
Two men, seated in the corner, eyed him, nodded.
She set the mug on the bar.
“Run this place all by yourself?” he asked.
“Mostly,” she said, and turned away to give the bill to the other table.
After they paid and left she came back. “Another one?”
He pushed the mug toward her. Under his rolled sleeve she saw the inked scorpion tail curled across his forearm. She searched his eyes.
She saw him now, past the shadows, the gauntness.
“How’d you find me?” she asked.
“I’m not on Facebook,” she said.
“Enough of your family and friends are,” he smirked, “It wasn’t hard.”
“Just passing through?” she asked.
“It’d take longer than 10 years in prison to forget a million dollars,” he said.
He chugged the last of his beer.
“He’s almost ten years old now,” she said.
He looked down, thumped his fingers on the bar.
“You cut your hair,” he said.
A knot filled her throat, but she wouldn’t cry.
He leaned forward, touched her lips with his. She smelled of tobacco and lavender, made him think of San Miguel, another mountain, a different time.
“Been dreaming about you,” he said.
She pulled away.
“Where is it?” he asked.
“In the back,” she said. Her eyes were set hard, like quartz.
She led him down a hall, to a wine cellar in the floor.
“You left a million dollars there?” he said.
She crossed her arms,“Safest place.”
He lowered himself into the hole and knelt by a safe in the corner.
“What’s the combination?” he called.
“Your birthday,” she said. He opened it and found stacks of hundred dollar bills.
“Maybe it was worth ten years,” he laughed.
The cellar door slammed.
“I was kidding! Dammit, Lucille, stop playing around.”
“You were gone too long,” she whispered. “My dreams are different now.”
“I’m gonna shoot it open!” He fired, but it didn’t do it much.
And with the pistol shot, a rattling, softer than summer leaves, started in the corner, echoed in the darkness.
A ball of snakes, asleep for the winter, writhed and twisted and undid itself, until one by one they slithered toward him.
And she almost went back.
That night, the shadowed town was darker still.
Blackness swallowed the treetops and the moon.
And the birds refused to sing.
Historical Accuracy: Pending
Facebook dinged in the other tab.
Jake, there’s some men here looking for you. They look like government agents.
Jake sat at up in his bed and read the message again. He flew through his Facebook settings. It asked if he was sure if he wanted to delete his account. Yes. He wiped his hard drive and threw his laptop into a backpack. He crashed into his closet and stuffed a handful of clothes into the backpack, as well as a bag of cash.
He glanced up at a medallion covered in snake-skin. The only thing he had left from his father. He grabbed it and shoved it in his pocket.
There was a knock on the door.
Jake went for a window, but there was a man crawling through it. He saw stars and then he was face down on the floor with another man on top of him.
“Ger oof me!”
“Hold still or this will hurt.”
“I serd ger off me!”
Jake’s body went limp. Blue light swirled around him and the wooden floor underneath him changed to dirt.
“Ever heard of Malcom Young?”
Jake felt the numbness edge away and he pushed himself up. He was standing in the middle of a group of suited men under a blazing sun.
“What do you guys want? Where are we? Where’s my house?”
“We want the amulet. We’re outside a rehab center in Australia and it’s currently June 7th, 1988. You didn’t answer my question.”
Jake put his hands on his head.
“I don’t believe this. I’ve been kidnapped by a bunch of nutcases.”
“The amulet. Now.”
“Fine, fine,” said Jake as he handed over the medallion to one of the men.
The man ripped off the snake-skin to reveal a small stone covered in an assortment of runes. He then ran off towards the rehab building.
“Help!” yelled jake, seeing people milling about the building.
“They can’t hear you. Now stop yelling and you’ll be returned home momentarily.”
“Okay, so who are you people?”
“We’re a hand-selected group from the future tasked with keeping events throughout history from going…awry. There are certain events which are supposed to happen a certain way and we make sure things go as planned. Such as making sure the moon doesn’t crash into Earth or that AC/DC doesn’t break up ahead of schedule.”
“Your father was one of us. That’s how we knew you had the amulet. Look, over there. That’s Malcolm Young, the founder of AC/DC.”
“That’s impossible. He’s been dead for over forty years.”
“See for yourself.”
Jake peered over at the structure again and saw a man with long, dark hair accepting Jake’s medallion from the suited man. The dark-haired man looked right at Jake and his face lit up. He waved. Jake looked back at the circle of men, but they were gone.
“Where in the…”
The blue blue light swirled around him again and he found himself sitting in a chair at home. He scanned the room for a few moments.
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