I thought I was in for a shot with this one for at least getting long-listed. Alas, it was not to be.
I couldn’t think of a title for this, but it’s a nice little horror piece that I am quite proud of, which draws on H.P. Lovecraft in a modern kind of way. The prompts for this month were:
- Each story had to take place in a LIBRARY or BOOKSTORE
- Each story had to include AT LEAST SIX of the following 20 words – each taken from the openings of the previous 20 Furious Fiction winning stories:
BROKEN; MUSIC; AROUND; MECHANICAL; SMELT; GRUBBY; GAME; COFFEE; BEIGE; HANDS; TWELVE; LETTERS; BACKPACK; NAMELESS; COWBOY; OPERATE; CUPID; TRAIN; PUNGENT; UNTOUCHED
I managed to use nine of the words in my story, which I am quite proud of.
“How much is this one?”
I looked up from my phone to see a customer standing in front of me, flicking nervously through the pages of a book. It looked old, as if it had been left untouched for years and as she ruffled the brown leaves specks of ancient dust crossed the room and were struck by the stream of light that sneaked in through the front window as it always did at that time of day. The pungent aroma wafted towards me, and smelt – like all old books do – of cake.
“Hey, how are you today?”
When no answer came, I continued, my retail instincts leaving me unperturbed by what I thought must be a shared rudeness between customers the world-over, “I’m not sure, let me have a look.”
I put down my coffee and gestured for her to hand the book to me.
“I-” she said, “I can’t. Can you just tell me how much it is?”
I hadn’t noticed how drawn-out her features were becoming and it occurred to me then that she wasn’t blinking. Her empty stare was burning a hole in the bookshelves behind me, her shaking hands gripping the sacred tome.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t even know what book you’re holding,” I said, the exasperation in my voice barely concealed. I wiggled the store computer’s mouse, clicked out of the browser game I had open from earlier, and opened the stock-list, “But if y-”
She was already halfway across the counter when I noticed her diving at me, and in slow motion I saw the black-gold of my freshly-brewed coffee propelling itself towards a box of unreleased pop-fiction hidden from the customers’ view. When time started to move again, a number of things seemed to happen all at once: she grabbed my wrist with one hand and pulled me forward; my chair jettisoned itself from below me, unprepared for the sudden movement, and was propelled backwards; and she swung the book with her other hand, losing her balance and glancing the computer with her now broken finger.
We both watched as her treasured text tumbled spine-first towards a glass display cabinet, travelling through the case and knocking over expensive figurines with a level of accuracy would have impressed any professional bowler. Glass tinkled melodiously as she slumped to the floor, no longer spell-bound, and I awkwardly struggled to pull myself off the counter.
“What the fu-” I started, before I heard the door to my store slam shut.
My wrist hurt, and the adrenaline that would have been useful a few seconds earlier made it difficult to walk steadily, crunching past the miniature heroes, and over to the culprit that had seemingly displaced my would-be customer’s sanity.
It lay closed on the floor, and twelve letters glowed ominously on the front, fading quickly: Necronomicon.
I picked up my phone and keys and left, locking the door behind me, never to return to that now cursèd place.