This story of mine was first published as part of National Flash Fiction Day. Along with the other FlashFlood stories, you could take part in their Write-In. You were tasked with submitting a story during a 24 hour window, based on a prompt and, if accepted, they would publish it on their blog. It was difficult for me because I typically let a story marinate for a few days before submitting it, but in the end, I wrote something fresh and I was lucky enough that my story was selected for publication. I chose the photo prompt below as my inspiration.
We had to know. Could it be a family of vagrants? A steel graveyard for lost pets? A meth lab? Tommy picked me up right on schedule and we headed over to Lafayette and the woods on the northside that hid something mysterious and potentially hazardous. Tonight was going to be a watershed moment for us. A reckoning. The uncovering of secret things.
“Did you pack everything?” Tommy asked.
“We’re all set, man. Flashlights, bottles of water, a pellet gun, granola bars and, just in case, a butcher knife.”
“Cool. You never know, we might have to slice a hobo or something.”
Tommy parked the Corolla at the treeline. I grabbed the gear and we starting walking through a forest of menacing trees and black silence.
“Ben, you know how to use that thing?”
“A knife? I just move my arm forward and thrust. How fucking hard is that? Jesus, man.”
“Just saying. What if there’s a hyena in there or a starving leopard with cubs? “That thrust of yours might be a tad shaky under the circumstances.”
“Yes, African predators in the hills of Kentucky makes a whole lot of sense. Dude, you need to chill on the weed or watch an episode of Animal Planet.”
After two miles we reached the abandoned caboose. How it got here nobody knows but there it sat; rusting and spooky and inviting. My stomach was sending out warning signals as we exchanged nervous smiles.
Tommy approached with the pellet gun extending from a vibrating arm and I raised the butcher knife above my head, ready to plunge.
“I’m not gonna lie, man, I’m scared shitless. You sure we should be doing this?” Tommy asked.
“No, but we’re here and we need to know. Let’s do this.”
I took a deep breath, reached for the handle and began to turn…
“Ben, I knocked on your door for five minutes. It’s time for dinner.”
“Sorry, dad. I was working on a story in my head and drifted away. Can I ask you something?”
“That old caboose rotting away in Lafayette, what do you think could be inside?”
He chuckled and said “Stuck on the ending I presume? It’s your story, son and your imagination. You’ll figure it out.”
I hurried through a meal of burgers and fries and dove back into bed and closed my eyes. And for a second time, my hand began to turn that handle.