Another writing contest post! Pass the Muse is an on-going, five round contest with a written prompt each round. There are some awesome people participating and again, some amazing writing. Here's my entry for round 1 (I don't expect to get through to round 2, but it's been fun anyway and at least I'll still be able to read everyone else's entries for the next few rounds...):
I sighed in relief at the sight of buildings on the horizon. Maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to steer my car into the car park of a motel before it broke down.
I glanced at the map in confusion. The thing was, there wasn't a town here or anywhere nearby. Perhaps the buildings were just farmhouses in the middle of no-where - in which case I was screwed - or maybe I was just hallucinating, the buildings only a by-product of hope and copious amounts of caffeine - in which case I was also screwed. Was that possible? Probably not. Caffeine could cause you to see flashes, but as far as I knew, not entire buildings.
Just a large farm then. Except, as my car juddered closer towards the buildings I could see more structures - too many for a farm. Bad cartography then? Only this was one of the best-selling and most accurate maps out there. How could an entire village go unnoticed?
I turned my focus back to the road, watching as buildings seemingly sprang up from the night's void. Not a village, a town. A town without streetlights. I kept an eye on the road as I squinted out of the windows in search of somewhere to stop. Anywhere would do, I just needed a bed until the morning. Or not even that, I'd be fine in even a car parking space. Something else the town appeared to be lacking.
My car shuddered and stopped in the middle of the road. At least the road wasn't busy. I turned the key in a futile attempt the turn on the ignition, exasperation building with each try. After the sixth attempt I grabbed my torch and opened the door, going out into the frigid air which instantly assaulted the skin on my bare arms and face and made me shiver uncontrollably. I fumbled to flick the switch on the torch, not surprised when it didn't turn on despite the fresh batteries I'd put in it this afternoon, and aimed a kick at my car. It wouldn't help but it made me feel better.
"Hey lady, need a hand?" I jumped at the sound of someone behind me - the streets had seemed deserted - and turned to face the lean, six-foot-ish man behind me.
"Ah. Yeah... I was wondering if you could point me towards a hotel?" I asked, embarrassment rising with the realisation that I looked like a complete idiot. He pointed down a road and I looked up at his quizzically. Inexplicably he laughed, a deep and almost throaty sound which errupted from his vocal chords.
"Sure, I'll walk you down there myself," he said before offering me a hand. "My name's Jake." I took the hand and shook it hesitantly. I had no idea where I was or who he was.
"Kaylie," I replied. Maybe I should have lied. Then again, giving him my first name wasn't giving much. He nodded, starting to walk down the road he'd pointed to and I found myself slowly running to keep up with his long, brisk strides.
No streetlights down this street, no car parking spaces either. In fact, the only car I'd seen so far was mine. I'd been to a lot of places - my mum had loved to travel - but this place was possibly the oddest.
My mum. If only she was here now. If only she was around period. Hot salty tears fell from my eyes for what was perhaps the thousandth time this week. Why? What had she done to anyone that would make them want to... I hadn't been able to stay, not in the town in which my mother was murdered, not even for the sake of my step-father, who had loved and supported us both for the last four years. So I had hit the road again, like my mum and I had before. Driving was good. It helped clear my head.
But now I remembered again and I just wanted to hide. Hide from the world.
"This place must seem really odd to you. Quiet, no cars, no electricity. It's lucky this place even has running water," Jake said from beside me, speaking for the first time since the car. No electricity? At all? I'd been so focused on the lack of streetlights that I hadn't bothered to think about much else
"I can deal, my mum liked to travel and we spent a few months in rural Botswana when I was nine and that was much worse than here. It's just strange that there's a built-up town here in Britain without electricity." Jake chuckled from beside me.
"In Britain? Sorry to break it to you honey, but you ain't in Britain anymore." I laughed nervously. Of course this was Britain, I'd gone through Manchester only three hours ago. It wasn't possible to be anywhere outside of Britain in three hours from there by car. I looked back at the road ahead.
"How far is it to the motel?" I asked.
* * *
December 19th. Another innocent soul has found their way into this wasteland of a town. Pretty. Long, curling ginger hair framing her face and wide, doe-like eyes, the colour of sapphires. Short, slim, and completely too fragile for this place.
Maybe I'll be able to save this one. Unlike so many others.
* * *
"We're here," he said, stopping outside of an imposing building not much further down the road. "Make sure they give you a couple of candles. They forget to regularly and you need a light, especially when going up the uneven stairs."
"Thank-you," I said, opening the door before hesitating. "You seem to know "they" pretty well."
"Reputation. Gossip travels fast, no doubt you'll be hearing a lot during your stay." He shrugged and looked away awkwardly.
"I'm only here for the night."
"That's all anyone needs, trust me." He turned and went to walk away before stopping and calling back. "You don't tend to find mechanics in towns with no cars."
That was a point. How was I going to get out of here? I'd have to walk to another town to find someone. There wasn't any more towns around here according to the map, but neither did this town exist and I was still here. I nodded at Jack's retreating back and entered the motel wordlessly.
I was hit by the stench of lavender as I entered. Usually I loved lavender, but there was too much of it in here. Flickering candles allowed me to see the oak flooring and brick walls so I could make my way up to the desk where a bored girl sat messing with her hair.
"Excuse me?" I asked. She looked up with a raised eyebrow.
"What?" she asked sharply. I frowned.
"Isn't this a motel, or an hotel, or a pub or something? I was told I could get a room for the night here." She sighed and sat up straight, pulling out a notepad for bookings and staring at me weirdly all the while.
"You're one of those then? Strange, I could have sworn you were..." She shook her head and took a key out of the draw. "Room four up the stairs. It's £20 a night, pay when you're done with the room. Breakfast is between seven and ten, lunch and dinner you'll have to find yourself. Name?"
"Urm... Kaylie Bayle. One of "those"?" One of her eyebrows shot up again. She wrote it down and passed me the key.
"Enjoy your stay," she said in a fake cheery tone. I let it go, getting to the stairs before I realised that I'd forgotten to ask for candles.
* * *
December 19th. Rumours already about the new girl. Apparently she's not entirely...human. Usually the non-humans who stumble into this place know where they are, yet not her. Perhaps she was faking, but can anyone be that good a fake?
* * *
I woke up the next morning, sunlight streaming through the curtains. I rolled over, grabbing for my phone which I'd left on the bedside table the night before and unlocking it. No service. Brilliant. At least I had the time.
I walked out and went downstairs. Breakfast sounded good, as did directions to the next town if anyone knew. I stopped by the desk, which was now occupied by a plump-ish woman with greying black hair who looked at me oddly as I walked towards the desk.
"Excuse me, I was wondering if you could give me directions to the next town with a mechanic in? My car broke down last night and I really need it fixed," I said, shutting my mouth as she glared at me.
"Why?" She asked. I frowned. I seemed to be doing a lot of that lately.
"Why do I need my car fixed? Because... I'm on a road trip and I need to get going?" She sighed impatiently.
"Why not stay?" she asked.
"Beth, the question isn't why she doesn't want to stay, it's how she found us again." I turned towards the voice, seeing a guy perhaps in his early twenties with auburn hair and dark blue eyes. Medium height, average weight. I was sure I'd never seen him nor the woman behind the counter before.
"Found you again?" I asked. "I've never been here before and I don't know you." A flicker of hurt crossed his face and for some reason this made me feel incredibly guilty. I bit my lip. I didn't know him, did I?
"Maybe I got you mixed up with someone else. I'm Tristan anyway. Closest place is a small village about fifteen miles east and there's no cars, bikes, buses or anything here. No phone masts, no power lines... I hope you're good at walking because that's the only way out. Sorry." He didn't sound sorry at all, more annoyed than anything. I nodded and turned, suddenly uninterested in breakfast.
I left, walking into a tall, lean guy - Jake from last night?
"Hey, Kaylie right? Hear anything interesting?" He asked. I shook my head.
"No, everyone seems really closed...like there's some big secret I should know but they aren't telling. It doesn't matter, I'll just grab my stuff and leave."
"Leave town?" He looked surprised. "They're letting you do..." His words were cut off by a shout from a girl on horseback.
"Jake, is Tristan still around? Heard he was here this morning." Jake shrugged.
"Didn't know he was in. Bit far out of his way." Jake glanced at me and then back to the girl on horseback. "Is this what I think it's about?" The girl smirked and nodded almost imperceptibly before dis-mounting and entering the Bed and Breakfast behind me with an arrogant stride. Jake looked back at me warily.
"Sorry darlin', gotta leave you, don't want to..." he looked at the B&B "...over stay my welcome." He walked off and I stared after him, confused. I had to get out of this town.
* * *
December 20th: She doesn't know who she is. I'd step in and explain, but with her brother around... It's a clear "back off" and I don't want to be seen visibly defying the wishes of my most "graceful" hosts. But I don't think I can stay away, she's just so interesting.
* * *
I opened the door to the B&B, purse in one hand and a small bag in the other. I'd pay and then I could leave. Simple as. But nothing is ever that simple, is it? The girl from last night was on the desk again, seemingly undisturbed by the shouting going on in the office behind her.
"Stop her leaving? Finally, some sense, why didn't I think of that? Oh wait, I did! How exactly am I going to stop her?" Tristan yelled from in the office. I placed my key down on the desk.
"Twenty pounds right?" I asked the girl. Her eyes widened and she stared at me, then behind her.
"Just tell her, you complete imbecile! She might think you're nuts but she'll believe you eventually!" The girl from the horse replied.
"Umm...minimum three day stay?" the girl from the desk said, an undercurrent of desperation lining her tone. I put sixty down.
"Might think I'm nuts? Well congratulations on winning under-statement of the year!" Tristan again.
"I'll pay you for three days but I'm done with the room - I'm leaving." She got up and knocked on the door to office.
"It's against policy, I'll have to ask the manager," she said, wincing as she was yelled at by three separate people. "Last night's guest wants to leave, I explained it's against policy but..." Tristan walked out, followed by Beth and horse-back girl.
"Fuck it, I'm telling her," horse-back girl said, grabbing my arm and dragging me towards the door. I dragged my heels and tried to pry her fingers away.
"Lara! That's my..." Tristan protested from behind me. Lara turned, twisting my arm in the process.
"Yes?" Tristan sighed.
"That's my sister you're man-handling, would you kindly let her go?" Lara dropped my arm and left, satisfied. I however, wasn't.
"You're insane. I don't have a brother."
* * *
December 20th: Trust Lara to get it done quickly, if not cleanly. Well I suppose that makes Tristan happy at least, his sister who went missing thirteen years ago found again. It just begs the question of where their mum is.
* * *
"I was ten when mum walked out and took you with her. You were five, had just started first school. Art was always your favourite subject. You were so happy, with a sort of infectious cheer. Helpful, friendly, forever smiling even as you tripped over that fluffy blue rug in the lounge - which you did, every time..." he was smiling as he trailed off. I shook my head.
"When I was five my mum and I moved out of my uncle's house. He had a son, my cousin, who was ten, but I never had a brother." Other than that it was eerily similar. I'd always loved art, and I still remembered that blue rug in my uncle's house. I was a happy child, a happy teenager, just not happy now because... Tristan shook his head.
"It was our house, yours, mum's and mine. Our dad came around sometimes but the house never belonged to him - mum and dad were never married. Come home, Kaylie, please. It's not far and dad wants to see you too. We can find mum and...what's wrong?" I shook my head. I wasn't about to talk about it to a complete stranger, especially not a deluded one. I stood up and moved to the door.
"I'm not your sister and I'm going to leave now... you can't stop me." I opened the door, glancing back nervously. This town wasn't odd, it was completely crazy. I needed to leave. Now. So what was making me stay?
"I can stop you," he said softly, a glint of something like challenge entering his eyes. "I'll give you a five minute head start." He sat down on the desk and gestured at me to leave.
I left and hit the ground running.
* * *
December 20th: I'm not entirely sure it was an entirely wise decision on Mr Bayle's part. I don't claim to know much about the politics of his kind but I know enough to say that leaving her unprotected, even for five minutes, would be a bad idea. So could anyone blame me for following her?
* * *
Five minutes. Not that long at all in the scheme of things and I could feel it rapidly ticking away in my head. I tried to focus on the rhythm of my feet as they slapped on the ground, but it was overtaken by the pounding of my heart as I let my fear run away. "I'll give you a five minute head start". Had said the psycho to the traveller.
(Line spacing rather went out of the window here, I'll sort it out on Monday, I promise.)
Hope you enjoyed it and I'll see ya next time.