Flash Fiction Friday: The Birch in the Fog
Each Friday, I will blindly pick a picture card from the board game Mysterium, and set a timer for fifteen minutes. When the timer goes off, the story is done.
Bombs were dropping all around Alistair. He would run to the left and another would drop on his right, making a large crater in the ground and spew dirt into the air like a man choking on food.
Alistair kept running despite the fact his lungs felt they were going to give way at anytime. Through the smoke and English fog he could see a building coming into view right in front of him. It was tall and had several windows. He could imagine how they glinted when the sun hit them full on.
The closer he got it looked like some sort of country estate. Judging by the size of the place it seemed like it was owned by someone who is very wealthy.
Alistair didn't like the thought of running into such a large, unknown building. In fact, all of his army training had told him this was the worst thing he could have done. But, the screams of men in agony behind him propelled him forward.
There might be help inside. If only I could get someone to help us, then I can save my men.
Alistair was now on top of the house. And it looked even more foreboding. It looked like it had three floors and was of a French provincial style. A large white flag with a black X across it waved high above. It almost seemed like the house was surrendering. Alistair scanned his memory to think what country this flag belonged to, but he couldn't come up with anything.
He ducked under the windows so he could peek through them without being detected. Alistair looked in one and saw what he assumed was a parlor. There was a couch, a piano, and a the room was lined with bookcases. But no one was in the room.
Staying low, Alistair crept toward the front of the house. He looked through the window to see what he would have guessed to be the front hall. Beautiful woodworking, a large grandfather clock and an opulent stairway leading into the darkness of the second floor, but no people.
He continued his crouching until he got to the other side of the house. Here he didn't have to look into the windows because he found where all the people were. They were in the back garden of the house, or what must have been a garden in its prime. About 20 people were standing, with their backs toward Alistair. They were surrounded by burnt out shrubs and browned grass covered in ash. A nearby fountain had been cracked in half and lay in a pile on the ground.
Maybe everything isn't as good as I thought it was.
Alistair had to make a decision. He either needed to talk to these people to ask for help, or he had to return back to his men and die alongside them.
Alistair stood straight up and quietly walked toward the group of people. The ground under his feet crunched and crumbled in its dryness. Scattered through out grass were everyday objects like spoons, knives, and forks.
As he crept closer, Alistair saw the fog that he had walked through became thinner and thinner until it was completely gone. The clouds in the sky were gone too and the sun shone above. He took in the rest of his surroundings and noticed that the house guests didn't seem to be moving. They were stuck in place. Like time had paused just for them as the world continued all around.
"Excuse me," said Alistair in a gentle voice not wanting to startled them or interrupt if they were doing something important.
When no one acknowledged him, Alistair began to feel fear climb up from his stomach and into his throat. There was no more time to be gentle about this.
"Excuse me!" he shouted as his voice seemed to echo into a void.
Still no one moved.
Alistair walked up to what looked like a man in a deep burgundy smoking jacket. He tapped him on a shoulder. The man didn't move, so Alistair grabbed his shoulder and turned him toward himself. Alistair dropped his hand quickly and backed away. The man had what appeared to be netting covering his face. In three different places, the netting was tacked down with what looked like ruby hat pins.
Alistair's heart beat into his chest. He looked at all the people and they looked the same way. Faces bound with netting, tacked down with jeweled pins.
Alistair didn't think they were dead, they had felt too warm for that.
He followed their gaze to see what they were all staring at. As he made his way up front he saw on the ground, surrounded by a circle of six Birch trees there was a brown top hat with a red ribbon. Coming out of the hat was a noise he had heard before. It started like a low rumble and began to grow into a roar.
Alistair crept closer. He couldn't help himself. It was as if he was being pulled toward the hat.
He found himself inside the circle of trees reaching for the hat. The noise came rushing in his ears as he placed the hat on top of his head.
Then there was just darkness.