Thursday, April 12, 2018

Friday Flash: Under the Dome

This week Chuck Wendig's challenge was to take a title from Stephen King... and write a completely different story. Since I don't read horror, I don't know much about any of the books he listed, but this one I hadn't even heard of. I'm pretty sure this isn't what King did with it, and I'm doubly sure he never turned it into humor so I'll claim the bonus points he offered for changing genre. In 870 words, I give you...

Under the Dome

It sat on the table like an overgrown metal mushroom, and we all tried to pretend we didn't see it.

It wasn't easy. Smooth, rounded, silver... it drew the eye, and our desire grew with the passage of time. Not so much a desire for what lay under the dome, as a desire to know.

I could lift the dome, end the suspense. I wasn't a child anymore. I didn't take orders from anyone, nor did any of us gathered there.

But she said not to touch it, and she commanded our obedience, if not our respect.

No one touched the gleaming dome. We waited for her to come.

No one mentioned the dome, or what lay under it. We acted as though it weren't there, as though we weren't all thinking about it all the time. We were a bunch of adults feeling like naughty children and trying to pretend we were far too mature to even care what was under the dome.

Every one of us was a damned liar. That huge, ugly silver dome had all our attention, and the conversation skittered over and around it without ever touching it.

The sheer size of the thing was part of the pull. It was probably the largest such dome anywhere. And the ugliest. The silver was etched all over with designs that confused the eye and, if looked at long enough, could induce nausea. The knob on the top was in the shape of a gargoyle or something similarly hideous. And yet that dome had so often covered things that were truly beautiful and amazing. Also a few that had made us sick, and that was part of the suspense we felt: which would it be this time? Good, or ill?

We went on chatting politely, pretending that everything we said didn't relate to it.

"And how was the tea at the vicarage, dear? Did they serve anything special this time?" Mrs. Werther ask Angelique.

What do you think she made this time? I interpreted to myself.

"Do you think it will rain?" Robby asked Colin.

Do you think there will be chocolate?

Robby almost gave in to the desire to know. I saw him watching the dome as though it might bite him, and his hand crept out towards it. He kept his head turned away as though he didn't notice what his hand was doing.

"Ahem." Grandmother stood in the doorway, clearing her throat with a meaning that escaped no one. Robby pulled his hand back as though the dome had burned him. Grandmother could make you believe just about anything, including that the dome was hot, so maybe it had burned. My hands stayed in my pockets. I wasn't going to test the theory.

None of us would test it now, not with Grandmother in the room. In any case, her arrival meant we'd soon be put out of our misery.

Out of our misery one way or another, I thought.

I tried to ease my way toward the French windows that led onto the terrace. If it was bad this time, perhaps I could make my escape outside. Only, of course, Grandmother spotted me the moment I moved.

"Clarinda! Where do you think you are going?"

I pasted a watery smile on my face and came back toward the table. "Nowhere, Grandmother. I was just standing near the window for a bit of air. I felt it was a bit warm in here."

She fixed me with a scowl that curled my hair. "Stuffy? Girl, it is January. There is a foot of snow on the ground, and this room is only slightly warmer than the ice box." She went on in that vein for several minutes, the main theme being that I was a young fool who would probably die of pneumonia because I didn't know what was good for me.

I refrained from rolling my eyes. Grandmother insists on using the old terms, even though we've had a proper refrigerator since before I was born. But if I rolled my eyes, Grandmother would be all over me about how young people these days have no manners. Instead, I stood quietly by the table while she laid out her instruments.

We all drew closer, despite the trepidation we felt when she laid her hand on the gruesome knob atop that silver dome. It was that way every time. If it was good, you didn't want to miss out. And if Grandmother caught you hanging back, you got to listen to a lecture much worse than what I got. So you didn't dare hang back in case it was bad.

She raised the dome, and we all held our breaths.

She lifted the silver monstrosity clear of the contents beneath it and laid it aside. We all drew in our breaths, gazing.

I let my breath back out slowly. There, on the cake plate, stood the most beautiful chocolate cake I'd ever seen.

We were doomed.

Grandmother's cakes had always been edible in inverse proportion to how they looked. She firmly took up the cake knife, and we braced ourselves to face our doom as we must, with stiff upper lips.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
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