Week Twenty-four Flash Fiction Challenge: Wormwood

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I was holding the file when Walt entered my office.

“Doug, you’re not dressed! C’mon, man, it’s time to go!”

Walt looked like he’d stepped out of the early 1960s: crew cut, black-framed glasses, dark suit, a thin blue tie.

“I see you’re ready.”

“We’re all ready – except you. We’re waiting for you!”

“I’m not going,” I said gently. “Go without me. You’ll be fine.”

“What are you talking about? We can’t do this without you!”

“You can. You must! I’m depending on you. My place is here, with my family. Go, while the window is open.”

Walt didn’t budge.

“Go! It will close soon, and so will our hopes!”

He left then, without a backward glance.

“Good luck, Walt,” I whispered. I stared at the name on the file I held: WORMWOOD.

***

I pulled up to the cabin where my ex-wife and daughter live. Work had been the reason for our divorce. Jeanie said it consumed me.

Switching off the ignition, I inhaled the sweet night air. The porch light came on, and Jeanie stood in a pool of light, peering out into the darkness.

“Doug… is that you?”

I got out of the car and walked slowly to the porch. “Yes, Jeanie, I’ve come to talk with you.”

I sat down on the step and my seven-year old burst through the front door.

“Daddy!”

Her tiny arms encircled my neck. Any calmness I’d felt these past months then deserted me and I began weeping.

“Daddy, are you crying?”

Jeanie noticed. “Cathy, go inside, watch TV. Let me talk to Daddy.”

Reluctantly, I released her, wiping my tears with the palms of my hands. When Cathy was inside, Jeanie sat down.

“What’s wrong, Doug?”

“Everything…” The story poured out, how months earlier we’d discovered a meteor half the size of Earth, hurtling toward our planet. Disasters? I’d seen some big ones in my time, but this one… this one was huge.

“Can’t anything be done?”

“That theory I’d been working on… about windows opening and closing…”

“Yes, portals to different points in time. But that was a theory, right?”

“Not anymore. Jeanie, we need time to figure out how to divert the meteor’s trajectory, and time is the one thing we don’t have. Tonight a team of scientists is traveling back to 1964. That gives them fifty years to figure things out.”

“Will it work?”

“I hope so… it’s all we’ve got.”

“When will the meteor hit?”

I reached for her hand. “Soon… dawn…”

Stunned, she stared at me. “And if the team is successful?”

“We won’t remember any of this. We’ll never have had this conversation.”

“And if they’re not?”

“It won’t matter then, will it?”

She was silent for a moment. “What do we do until then?”

“I think you, me and Cathy… I think we should enjoy this beautiful night. Let’s gaze at the stars, let’s believe there’s a tomorrow.”

Jeanie rested her head against my shoulder, and we both looked up at the slowly brightening sky.

__________________
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This week’s tale is written in response to a challenge to write a 500-words or less story utilizing the phrase, ‘I’d seen some big ones in my time, but this one… this one was huge.’ You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges hosted by ThainInVain here.

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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42 Responses to Week Twenty-four Flash Fiction Challenge: Wormwood

  1. stacilys says:

    Hey Kate, this was great. Really captivating.
    πŸ™‚

  2. Kate Loveton says:

    I think you may be right, Kathy… that was a little hint!

  3. W. K. Tucker says:

    I think the scientists did not succeed in their mission. The sky was brightening–at night.
    Another winner, Kate. πŸ™‚

  4. Stephen Thom says:

    This was enjoyable, I’m glad I clicked on the link to this blog. It escalated quickly, went somewhere different from what I initaially expected. I liked the final sentence too. Great stuff., will keep an eye out for more of your writing. πŸ™‚

  5. Kate Loveton says:

    Absolutely! I’d be happy to do so. πŸ™‚

  6. Mark Gardner says:

    I love time travel and potential paradoxical stories. Great!

  7. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week Twenty-Four Submissions (24) | Thain in Vain

  8. Lucy says:

    Wow. You have made me proud. That was awesome. The sky was brightening. He should have gone with them. Well done, my friend. Lucy

    • Kate Loveton says:

      If I made you proud, Lucy, than I’m a happy woman because I have tremendous respect for your writing (not to mention your discernment in the books you read). I think you picked up on what happened at the end of the story… πŸ™‚

  9. What a unique take on the prompt! You really developed your characters and plot in such a short piece! Excellent work on this one, Kate! TiV

  10. Great, great story. You left me hanging? I want to know what happened!!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Noelle, as I was writing this story I kept thinking, ‘Darn, I’d really like to make this a longer story.’ I would have liked to speak of the team’s origin, of the problems between Jeanie and Doug, and – of course – what happened as dawn approached. There’s a bit of a hint in the last sentence…

  11. Juan Zung says:

    Really liked this! Especially cool that, in a story this short, you had two compelling scenes.

  12. gpeynon says:

    Ok. So I’ll wait a week of so, and if I don’t evaporate in a superheated ball of meteor, flame and nastiness, then I shall presume the time-travel mission to have been a success.

    And if it’s not too much to ask; could the team bring me back a few first edition Beatles records please?

  13. Beautiful, Kate. What a wonderful response to the prompt!

    Will the team who’ve been sent back in time be able to avert disaster or will this be the final night that Doug will spend with his loved ones?

    Excellent work! ❀

  14. andy1076 says:

    oh wow Jules Verne(sic) himself would glued to this story πŸ™‚

  15. Mark Baron says:

    Oh, sure, make my story look trite and amateurish with your awesome, amazing story. I see how it is! πŸ˜‰

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