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Don't Be Late! a Short Story Challenge by Ann Carr

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

The Challenge and Introduction

A wonderful fellow writer named Ann Carr recently wrote an article "How to Edit and Sustain a Good Level of Writing..." Therein, Ann issued a challenge for others to write a short fiction story based on the following opening sentence and photo provided :

‘Jemma walked up to the door of the house and rang the bell. There was no answer. She went round the back. In the back garden was a figure……..’

"Keeping to the same theme, your task is to make that introduction more interesting, have more impact, and then finish the story in the same fashion. It should be between 500 and 1000 words. You can change the character's name if you wish, male or female." ~ Ann Carr

I admit to straying a little from this guideline as my story is only around 410 words so is definitely flash fiction. Hopefully, it is still effective and meets the challenge.

Don't Be Late!

Jemma didn't look around but focused only on the path in front of her as she strode directly to the door of the small brick house. Without hesitating, she rapped three times before she noticed the small button marked "Please Ring." Impatiently, she pressed it and waited.

A few minutes passed and, becoming a little agitated, Jemma looked at her watch. Sure, she was a little early but that's much better than being late for an appointment she assured herself.

He raised a shovel and tossed another load of soil onto the garden bed

She contemplated ringing the bell again but instead decided to walk around to the back of the house. Perhaps the occupant was busy outside and didn't hear the bell.

Jemma carefully skirted a small red trailer full of junk as she passed the side of the house, but on rounding the rear corner she stopped in her tracks...

A figure stood chest high in a hole in the garden. The hole was large, at least as long as the man must have been tall, and still growing. He raised the shovel and tossed out another load of soil onto the garden bed.

The note in her mailbox had simply given this address and "3.00 pm. Formal attire. Don't be late!"

"Hello!" Jemma called, more curious than nervous, and hearing her voice the figure turned to face her. Laying down the shovel, the man proceeded to hoist himself out of the hole, wiped his grimy hands on his overalls, and grinned. "You're early!" he said in a somewhat surprised tone.

Jemma started to give her usual spiel, "It's better to be on time.." but stopped herself. It suddenly dawned on her that she had no idea why she was here, at this house in a neighborhood she had never visited before.

The note in her mailbox had simply given this address and "3.00 pm. Formal attire. Don't be late!"

The fact it had been written on what appeared to be old parchment paper and in immaculate calligraphy had spurred her interest.

"Oh well, I guess a foot or two doesn't really matter," the craggy-faced man grumbled solemnly.

Jemma looked at his cold eyes, puzzled. "Why am I here?" she began to ask but her words became garbled as his gnarled fingers suddenly tightened around her throat in a crushing grip.

"It isn't often someone arrives early for their own funeral. But it's better than being late."


© 2018 John Hansen

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