Saturday, April 6, 2013

F: Flash Fiction Friday (even though it's really Saturday)

Time for another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Friday Challenge, postponed a day in this case so I could match my little alphabet things up.  This week, Chuck gave us a picture of a door, and told us to open it, walk through, and write the story.

Footsteps in Time

I would have expected it if I had still been ten.  I spent my childhood reading about things like the Wardrobe that leads to Narnia, the door into the Secret Garden, and Alice falling through the looking glass.  And in spite of that I didn't give a moment's thought to the great wooden door with a lion head knocker in the middle, not to mention the strange fractured stone lintel, none of which I remembered from previous visits.  To be honest, I didn't even notice.  I just opened that door and walked right through.  It was in the right place, so it must have been the entrance to the hairdresser, right?

Wrong.  Just how wrong was gradually dawning on me in the seconds after the door swung silently shut behind me.  I'd expected to see Clarice, my stylist, and a brightly-lit room full of people getting cuts, mani-pedis, and a week's worth of gossip.  I'd smell the shampoos, polishes, and heaven knows what toxic chemicals that are Clarice's stock in trade.  I'd sneeze three times, and wipe my nose through the whole haircut, because I'm stupid allergic to all that stuff.

What I saw instead was . . . nothing.  It was pitch dark.  I smelled the musty aroma of an old library.  Correction: an ancient library.  The scent of mildew and dust and paper, and maybe some other things that don't bear too much thinking of.  A hint of distant coffee, long burning on a stove somewhere in another room.

Since I couldn't see anything, my nose was working overtime trying to make sense of the place, so naturally I sneezed three times.  It was the only familiar thing I had just then, and I found it strangely comforting.  Not so comforting that I didn't turn back to feel for the doorknob and leave.  Wherever this was, I didn't belong here and needed to get back to my own world right away, or I'd miss my hair appointment and wouldn't be able to get a cut scheduled for weeks, by which time I’d look like some kind of bag lady.

There was no doorknob.

There was no door.

I wanted to panic, but instead I began reviewing all the books I'd ever read where someone passed through a door and ended up far from where they expected.  Nearly every one had ended well, I told myself.  I tried to ignore the fact that first they usually had to save the world--some world--and that it was nearly always touch-and-go.  I'm not much of a fighter type.  I just wanted to get my hair styled and go have a few drinks with the girls, you know?

But here I was, in the dark, in a strange, ancient library (if I'd understood the smells correctly).  And I needed a bathroom.

The Pevensies NEVER needed a bathroom.  Did Alice ever have to stop to pee?  She did not.  But I'd been kind of hurrying to get to my appointment so I could use the loo, and now. . . Now I didn't even know if indoor plumbing had been invented yet.

A light was coming.  Soon I'd know something, if only what my fate was to be, what world I had to save, or who would end my life in a hurry.

An old man in a robe of some sort shuffled into the room.  He raised his candle for a better look at me.  Then he nodded, once.

"You'll do."

What did he mean by that?  I'd "do"?  Just adequate?  I forgot I'd been an unwilling conscript to whatever was happening, in my offense at being so underrated.  I’d read al the books.  I’d be darned good at this!  Whatever this was.

He shuffled to the shelves and began searching, occasionally removing a book and studying it a moment, usually returning it to the shelf.  Gradually he accumulated an armload, then shuffled back to me.  He thrust the pile of books into my arms.

"Take these."

"Why?  What do I do with them?"  Even as I asked the question I was stowing the books in my giant handbag.  Fortunately, I'd cleaned it out the previous day while searching for my cat, and there was space.

"This library will be destroyed soon."

I looked around, as though expecting to see the barbarian hordes coming already with torches.

“I don’t think I’ll make much of a warrior, but I’ll try.”  I like libraries.

"No.  You cannot stop it.  You can only save these books.  The ones that will make the most difference."

"What do I do with them?"  With some relief I accepted that I was only an errand girl, not the savior of the world.

"Take them to the library, of course."  He sounded surprised that I had to ask.  "The largest library you can find.  Put them on a shelf in the dimmest back corner.  Keep them together."

"And then what?"

"Nothing."  After a moment he took pity on me.  "All libraries are connected. A librarian will come, and he will know what to do.  You need do nothing more.  Now go."

I wanted to ask about the bathroom, but the door behind me swung open once more, and he was urging me through it, back onto the busy sidewalk and the 21st Century.  I gave one look back, and the door had vanished.  My mind on other things already, I hurried the last few steps to the hairdresser's, called a greeting, and made it to the bathroom just in time.

After my haircut, I went to the main library, in its ancient building.  It seemed the best place.  I found a dim corner, and I left the books.

I wonder if I really did save the world.


  1. You are a most talented writer, excellently written and most enjoyable.

    Have a great week-end.


  2. Interesting! Makes me wonder who was going to destroy their library and why, what made those books more important than the thousands of others, are the "Librarians" normal or some kind of secret society specially trained *ninja* librarians ;), etc etc. Love it!


  3. Oh this is great! I loved it- all the descriptions, and the simple (wonderful) way it wrapped up!
    Very nicely done! :)
    Favorite snippet- having cleaned out her handbag looking for her cat! :D

    1. Thanks Lexie! I do have to admit that line was more a matter of knowing a good thing when I hear it. Folk musician Kat Eggleston wrote a song called "Too Much **** in My Purse," and used the line "it took three days to find my cat." My boys used to think that was the funnies thing ever.

      And like the long hair that means I never go to hairdressers (see below; it was supposed to be a reply to Elaina above you, but I messed up. As usual.), I have carried nothing but a wallet since I stopped having to carry a diaper bag. That made me SO tired of lugging giant bags everywhere!

    2. And just to do Kat a good turn (her mom was my beloved 2nd grade teacher), here's the link to her page. The song I mention is in fact available for listening in the last link on the page.

  4. Elaina, I wonder some of that myself! I admit to being influenced by Terry Pratchett's declaration in the Discworld novels that all libraries are interconnected. And the Ninja Librarian is a member of a secret society of Ninja Librarians (see story here:

    The real stretch for me was the hairdresser. I've never been to one, and have worn my hair long and straight for the last 40 years.

  5. That was a fun story! Glad you stopped by so I could come check yours out. I loved the mention of wondering about bathrooms, because you're right; almost no story refers to needing one. I actually wrote in a bathroom reference in one of my stories. (only one so far, since none of the stories are done anyway)

    1. Spend enough of my life looking for them, it seems only right. I'm actually sorry that old books never talk about how they coped with stuff like that, on the trail or in their castles or whatever.

      Tamora Pierce totally won me in "Lady Knight" when she has her heroine needing to find a tree. . .

  6. Nice story! Great visuals. And thanks for stopping by my blog.
    Take care, Paul

  7. Brilliant! I loved it. Have you read Rahma Krambo's Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria? No? My review is here

    More Flash Fiction Fridays on Saturdays, please!

    1. Now I have to go discover MORE books I haven't time to read! Thanks a million ;)

  8. Oh, and I think next week Flash Fiction Friday will be back to Friday. Is that okay?


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