My Short Story–“Thrill Ride”

So, in another sad-but-cool outcome for a contest I entered, my short story, “Thrill Ride” was a finalist in the 2018 National Fantasy Fan Federation Short Story Contest. In celebration of becoming a finalist, I’m posting “Thrill Ride” here for everyone to read!

I hope you enjoy!

Thrill Ride

Weddings were generally dull, but after fifty-six times through with the exact same couple, on the exact same day, dull wasn’t a strong enough word to describe the mind-numbing festivities. But weddings involved a lot of people, which meant plenty of opportunities to make my own fun.

“Attention, everyone,” the best man shouted into his microphone, silencing the music. “I won’t take much of your time. I just want to congratulate Charlie and Lissa. We all knew this day was coming, but seriously, what took you guys so long to tie the knot?”

Laughter spread throughout the vapid crowd. The guests lifted their glasses and cheered. Even the first time I heard his short speech, I hadn’t been impressed, and now it grated at my limited patience.

How banal.

I needed to find something to enliven my evening. It took all of my willpower not to set the place on fire, but I knew that wouldn’t result in the kind of raw emotion I wanted. Living life like an average person–going through the motions–it lacked all spark and exhilaration.

I kept returning to the wedding, hoping to find a situation or person that piqued my interest since so many were here. There had to be something I never tried before. Something exciting and not on the schedule.

With stiff motions I slipped through the crowd, never making eye contact, my attention focused on the trite slice of cake I had on my plate. I side-stepped the drunken windbag doing his karaoke–I knew his every wobbly movement by heart–and avoided the urchins playing tag in the dining room despite their mother’s constant ineffective reprimands.

Where to sit?

Where hadn’t I sat before?

I looked up from my cake to take in the surroundings.

My chest filled with a flutter of anticipation the moment I spotted my favorite person. He wouldn’t be predictable. Things always got interesting when I involved him. Always.

I sauntered over and took a seat at the rickety foldout table. The corner of the room offered protection from the cacophony of dullards all around us, and I appreciated the semi-private space.

Simon, the only other occupant, didn’t move when I joined him. He kept himself bundled in a black puffy jacket, his eyes focused on the plate in front of him, drilling a hole into his food as though he couldn’t see it at all.

I stabbed my cake and broke it apart, trying to act normal–trying to hide my excitement. The icing slid across the cheap paper plate.

“Hello,” I said.

Simon looked up, his blue eyes momentarily flashing with some sort of intense emotion. Hate? Fear? I didn’t know. But it disappeared as quickly as it came, his vacant gaze afterward a disappointment.

“How are you enjoying the wedding, Lukas?” Simon asked, quiet and without enthusiasm.

“It’s hard to enjoy anything you’ve seen hundreds of times before.”

Simon lifted an eyebrow. “Did the best man practice his speech with you?”

The struggle to hold in my laughter prevented me from answering straight away. “That’s not what I’m saying,” I whispered.

“I don’t know what you mean then.”

No one knew. It always amused me to explain it all, even if it would be forgotten in an instant. After I finished mutilating my cake, I leaned forward and smiled. “The best man is about to spill his drink. Wait for it.”

Right on cue, the best man fumbled and with his second glass of champagne. It slid from his hand and shattered across the floor, eliciting a grasp from the cows of the audience. He shrugged off the ordeal, grinning like a fool, and threw down a few napkins.

“Technical difficulties,” he said.

Everyone laughed.

Well, everyone but me and Simon.

“And now some fat buffoon will attempt to help,” I continued, keeping my voice low, “but he’ll only make the situation worse.”

As though my words were a script, and everyone in the room mere actors for my amusement, an older man, heavy set and breathing hard, got up from his chair. He carried over a fistful of napkins but tripped on a speaker cord underfoot. He stumbled forward, hit the edge of a table, and then slammed to the floor. Food and drinks went flying. More glass shattered across the concrete floor of the community center, creating a hazard that would eventually cut some idiotic cleaning woman later in the evening.

The other guests jumped up and rushed over.

Now it was my turn to get a chuckle.

“It isn’t a wedding without a few hiccups,” the best man said into the microphone, repairing the jovial atmosphere with his laidback attitude. The crowd lifted their glasses and cheered at his sentiment.

Simon returned his attention to me, his complexion wan under the fluorescent lighting. “You’re drunk, Lukas,” he said. “Or do you really expect me to believe you can see the future?”

“I don’t see the future. I live through it. Over and over again.”

“Maybe you should go home,” he said after he took a bite of his cake. “You’re bringing down the mood.”

I chortled. Then I jabbed my fork into the last of my spongy dessert, puncturing the plate. “No one ever believes me when I tell them. I thought you would be different. I guess I was wrong.”

Simon finished his glass of champagne but didn’t offer further commentary. How disappointing. Then again, maybe I could still get a reaction out of him. Something to entertain me while the charade of human life continued on around us.

“It happened one night,” I said, meeting his gaze with my own. “I was depressed. In too much debt. Bank foreclosing on my house. Divorce paperwork in the mail. Some circumstances eat at a person. You know what I mean.”

Simon ran his thumb over the ring on his finger. He hated whenever I alluded to his ex-wife.

I continued, “So I loaded a gun, brought it to my temple, and right before I pulled the trigger I heard this whispering.”

He stared without blinking, his muscles tense.

“The susurrations spoke to me, like the darkness itself dared me to say its name.”

“You must have been dreaming,” Simon said.

“Maybe. But then I said it. The name of the darkness.” I slammed my hand on the table, toppling over Simon’s glass and causing him to flinch.

“And?” he asked.

“And then I went back. To before everything went wrong.  Years of time. All undone.”

The groom picked up the microphone and shouted, “I’m so grateful for our lovely community! I moved to Alcombry ten years ago, thinking I needed a change. Little did I know my life would change forever when I met soulmate, Lissa, at the grocery store.”

The crowd awed, followed by a hearty round of clapping. Then the lights dimmed, casting our corner in shadows, and the happy couple started their dance.

Simon moved to the edge of his seat, his gaze hard set. “You should just enjoy the celebration, Lukas.”

“I’ve done that already. A few times. Because every time I whisper the name of the darkness, I go back. I used it to relieve the best moments in my life. A hundred times over.”

And I kept going back. Again and again. Doing everything perfectly, whenever I made a mistake. Falling in love, experiencing the first date, the first kiss, the heated moments in bed–but slowly it lost all meaning, lost all luster. So then I made new friends. Had new first dates. Fell in love with others. Had those first moments all over again.

But the same thing happened.

It became boring.

Knowing the solution to every problem, knowing I could correct any sentence or mistake or failure, knowing I could eventually get whoever I wanted, given enough time, brought about a deep sense of ennui far worse than when I had contemplated suicide. But with the ability to unravel time, I didn’t wish for death, I just wished for something more exciting. Something to sate my curious mind and appetite for pleasure.

“I lived a perfect life,” I whispered to Simon. “A life you couldn’t even imagine. Women. Money. But it wasn’t enough.”

His eyebrows knit together, but he remained silent.

“You know what I thought then?”

Simon clenched his jaw, almost like he wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

I smiled. “I thought, what if I killed everyone instead?”

Although the music continued to play, a harsh silence came between me and Simon. He moved his unsteady hands off the table and played with the dog tags around his neck. But he said nothing. Didn’t matter. I would get the reaction I wanted once I told him the best parts.

“At first I was little scared,” I said.

More people shuffled onto the dance floor, creating a white noise that blanketed the area.

Simon waited, his attention on me and me alone.

I exhaled, the memories fresh in my mind, and I smiled wider. “I had never killed anyone before. There’s a rush to it I can’t explain. So much excitement and adrenaline.”

Nothing topped that first kill. I snuck into the house of the old crone who lived across the street. She had once called the police on me because I left my mailbox full and the sight displeased her. Well, I remembered, even when she didn’t, and I swore her nagging would be the end of her.

I went in at night, no alarm system or dogs, and I carried my paring knife all the way to her bedroom. Then I sliced her wrinkled throat clean open. Really hard to nag about a mailbox after that.

“Who was it?” Simon asked.

I pointed to the old crone–alive right now–but I had killed her in more than a hundred timelines, each more imaginative than the last. “Old Ms. Windbag there. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but she has a lot of blood, actually. Gets all over the place, which is why I tend to suffocate her now.”

“That’s a sick story,” Simon said, curt. “I really hope, for your sake, you’re just drunk and looking for attention.”

“Is it really so bad? One whisper of the darkness’s name and I reset everything anyway.”

The music swelled, and more guests jumped to their feet, leaving me and Simon as the last two seated at a table. Despite the celebrating, neither of us moved.

“It wasn’t hard killing everyone in town,” I muttered.

I turned my head, surveying the partygoers. My attention flitted from child to child, from the postman with a missing finger to an older single mother, to the basement-dwelling thirty-something woman with asthma. I didn’t stop until I spotted the sole police officer for our tiny town.

“Not even Officer Logan put up much of a fight,” I said. “He kept trying to calm me down, ask what was wrong, refusing to believe I would ever hurt anyone. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s soft. He shot me a few times, but he always aimed for the arms or my legs. It cost him every time.”

“I think you might be sick in the head,” Simon said.

When I returned my attention to him, I couldn’t stifle my chuckling. “Everyone is easy to kill. Everyone, that is, except for you.”

Simon tensed. Still as a corpse, he stared, like I might lunge at her at any second.

I loved it. Nothing made the air taste as sweet as panic did.

“You always put up a fight,” I whispered. “A real fight. I tried to kill your daughter at her little elementary school, but there you were. Ready to do whatever it would take to stop me.”

He wasn’t like the others.

I ran a hand down my face, grasping at the memories and piecing them together. Every blow, trick, and plan I had to kill him and his daughter–he was ready and waiting, like he could sense me coming. Almost like he knew I was hunting them.

“Why is that?” I asked.

Simon said nothing.

“How do you know when I’ll come for you?”

He remained cold and unmoving.

I wanted him to tell me his secret, but maybe even he doesn’t know. Apparently there are shadows that unweave the very fabric of reality and time–what if he had some other power that helped him stay alive? But his icy demeanor revealed nothing.

“And one time you almost got me,” I said. “Fighting to the death has a certain appeal to it. Again, it’s almost too hard to explain. The pure rush of it all hit me like nothing before. I had to do it again. And each time I came for you, you fought back.” I leaned forward. “Tell me how you do it. I want this same sensation with others.”

The competition for life couldn’t be rivaled, not by sex or casual murder. The euphoria of coming out the victor after an intense struggle really couldn’t be understated. What if I could find others with the same determination to live? I could go through hundreds of fights before I was bored with the situation.

Life was so fucking dull and pointless. But not in those moments. Not in the afterglow of a vicious and brutal victory.

“You’re psychotic,” Simon whispered.

I almost attacked him right then and there. What if I forced him to answer? No. Simon had more willpower than most. He’d die just to spite me.

A few people glanced over, but the rhythm of the party called them back before they questioned anything. I took the time to inhale and exhale, calming myself, regaining my composure.

“You said something odd the last time I killed you,” I muttered. I shook my head and furrowed my brow. “What was it? You called me an abomination or something. It really sent shivers down my spine. Do me a favor. Say it again. Tell me how evil I am. No one does it like you.”

Simon took in a ragged breath. “You need help. You should call someone right now, that’s how serious this is.”

I huffed and leaned back in my chair, my gaze traveling up to the ceiling. Was he playing dumb? Or did he really not know? Either way, it was dull.

“Eh. How disappointing.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I’ve told my secret to a few people before I rewound time, but never you. I don’t know what I was so afraid of. I figured you would attack me, or perhaps reveal your secret power.  But instead you’re just as spineless as the rest of these puppets. Saying the same things they did.” I mimicked their panicked voices as I said, “Lukas, you’re unstable, or Lukas, what’s wrong? We want to help you. Or, my favorite, Lukas, please don’t hurt my family! Why are you doing this? You know. The same ol’ same ol’.”

“Maybe you should listen to them.”

I smiled again as I recalled the deaths of my neighbors. “You know, everyone else begged me to spare their life. But not you. You never beg. It really gets me going. No one is as fun as you are.”

The music slowed and couples formed to dance out their inner emotions. The groom and bride took the spotlight, their happiness infecting everyone around them. No eyes lingered on the corner of the room. No ears heard our mutterings. For all intents and purposes, Simon and I sat alone, stewing in the darkness.

“If this is all true,” Simon whispered. “Why would you do any of this? You’re wealthy. You have everything you want. Why would you hurt the people of Alcombry?”

“Why not? I need the excitement in my life. Something to stimulate my imagination.”

“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

I waved away his comment with a twist of my wrist. “It doesn’t matter. I’m above consequence.”

“Is that really what you think?”

“Are you going to try to talk me out of my evil ways like all the others? You’ll have to be creative. I’ve heard a lot of speeches in my time.”

“You could just stop,” Simon said. “And live out your life normally. No one is making you say the name of whatever demon gives you this power. None of what you did needs to happen. You understand that, right? You’re in control.”

With a forceful exhale, I stood.

Simon gripped the edge of the table, but otherwise didn’t move.

“Whelp,” I said, “you were a waste of an evening. Maybe I’ll unravel time and go corner you in your house again. You’re infinitely more entertaining when you have that wild look in your eye. All your fight seems gone now, like you barely care.”

“Lukas. Let’s talk about this.”

“People are much more entertaining when they think they’re about to die. And talking about it has made me nostalgic for the experience.”

“What’re you going to do?”

“Something I haven’t done before. Something hilarious.”

Simon didn’t reply. He stared, his expression neutral, as I circled around the table and walked up behind him. Still, he remained seated. But even through the heavy coat and shadows, I could see the tension in his body, and the sweat dappling his skin.

“Aren’t you going to tell me to stop?” I drawled. “Aren’t you going to tell me not to hurt anyone?”

Simon said nothing.

“Is your daughter here?”

He ground his teeth so hard it could be heard over the music.

There’s my favorite person,” I said with a smile. “Maybe I can make this night exciting for the both of us.”

“Lukas. Don’t.”

“Sseersangilix.”

The moment the syllables of the name were uttered, the shadows themselves tore away at reality, unraveling the threads that bound matter together. Light ceased to be, but in the next instant, everything coalesced into a moment of the past, bringing me back to the start of the toast–the very moment I had thought of before speaking the word.

The next few seconds left me nauseous, but I shook off the illness and returned to my default state of barely feeling anything.

Standing at the edge of the room, cake in hand, I glanced over my “new” surroundings.

“Attention, everyone,” the best man shouted into his microphone, silencing the music. “I won’t take much of your time. I just want to congratulate Charlie and Lissa. We all knew this day was coming, but seriously, what took you guys so long to tie the knot?”

Laughter spread throughout the vapid crowd. The guests lifted their glasses and cheered.

So fucking predictable.

I slipped through the crowd, disgusted by their ignorance and pathetic, worm-like existence.

They had no idea a god walked among them.

I sidestepped the drunken fool singing to the karaoke, but when the kids ran by, I let my cake fall into their path. One little urchin boy slipped on the frosting and slammed his face into the cement floor. I restrained a smile as blood exploded from his nose. Too bad he wouldn’t remember my little lesson.

The mother ran over, but I stepped around her as well.

I had a target, and I spotted her at the back of the room. The pretty little preteen Simon cared for so much. What was her name? Marie. Her long blonde hair shimmered, even in the terrible lighting. What would it look like when clumped and knotted with blood? I’d soon find out.

With my excitement in check, I glanced to the corner of the room. There sat Simon. All by himself. Quiet and drinking, just like he had been before our now nonexistent conversation. He didn’t even glance over as I crossed the room.

Did he have some sort of power gifted to him by the shadows? Did he know something I didn’t? I wish he did. It would have made life so much more exciting.

Marie stood by the bathroom door, rubbing at a frosting stain on the sleeve of her pretty little blue dress. A vision of youth with a mix of curiosity. Sweet and innocent. A perfect combination for the best tasting dread. She was alone, no group of girls flocking around her. Her quiet nature reminded me of her father.

“Technical difficulties!” the best man said.

He must’ve just spilled his glass.

But I ignored all that as I made my way to the bathroom door. I slid a hand into my pocket and caressed the cold steel of my knife. I could’ve brought my gun, but that wasn’t as satisfying. It was more personal with a knife. More visceral.

I approached Marie with a smile. “Occupied?”

Marie glanced up and then to the side, avoiding eye contact. For a moment she remained silent. Did she know? Maybe she too could sense my intentions, just like her father. My pulse quickened just thinking about it.

“It’s Ms. Carver,” Marie finally said. “She has her oxygen tank. It takes her awhile to move around sometimes.”

“Oh, trust me, I know.”

Marie turned back, her brow furrowed. “You can wait behind me.”

That wouldn’t do.

“I know of a bathroom in the back,” I said, motioning to the kitchen door. “I’m going to use that. You know how Ms. Carver can be. I’d hate to rush her.” Then I turned and headed for the back. A smile crept across my face as I slowed my pace. Marie would follow. I didn’t even need to look back.

Sure enough, my heart fluttered with anticipation the moment I heard the clock of Marie’s heels.

“Can you show me where the bathroom is?” she asked.

“Of course. Follow me.”

The bustle of the kitchen made it impossible for anyone to take special note of our trek. There were sideways glances, but no one approached or questioned. I had explored this area enough times to know who would cause problems and who wouldn’t. So I led Marie through the modern steel kitchen, and through the back hallway covered in cracked paint. Marie shadowed my steps, keeping close and mumbling apologies to everyone she passed.

I barely took note of anyone’s existence. What did it matter? They were beneath me. Their boring puppet lives had nothing interesting to offer.

I turned the corner and entered the large pantry, beyond the sight of the waiters and waitresses. Marie stepped inside with me, glancing around with her eyebrows knitted together. When I stopped, she wrung her hair with her hands, a portrait of nervousness.

I licked my lips, already enjoying the taste in the air.

“Are you sure it’s here?” Marie asked.

“Actually, now that you mention it, we did take a wrong turn.”

I stepped past her and grabbed the pantry door. Then I shut it, trapping her in the windowless room.

The silence between us thickened. Perhaps the hunted could smell the deadly intentions of the hunter–my victims always seemed to know right before their final moments that they would die in a struggle. Even though I hadn’t said anything, Marie held her arms tight across her chest, her shoulders bunched at her neck.

She trembled as she stared, her eyes wide.

Then I withdrew my blade.

Marie knew. In that moment she had all the pieces put together. The dreaded realization on her face made for an interesting expression–one few people ever got to experience. I could taste the thick stench of fear.

It tasted like blood.

“Scream,” I commanded as I pulled my cellphone from my pants pocket.

Marie remained quiet. She took a step back, her quavering form growing smaller as she hugged herself tighter and tighter.

Didn’t she know that killing someone wasn’t enough anymore? I needed more. I needed the intensity that came from a fight. The rush. The burn. I needed to not only taste her fear, but her mettle as well. The girl’s will to live.

“If you don’t scream, I won’t have anything to show your father,” I said as I took a step forward. I pressed record on my phone’s microphone before I placed it on the pantry shelf. “And nothing gets your father angry like listening to you scream.”

“Father,” Marie gasped.

“Yes. Your father. I want–”

The blinding pain of cold metal in hot flesh cut my speech short. Everything went white and my senses dulled, but it didn’t last long. I had felt the sting of a blade in my body before. I had felt everything before.

In that one moment of weakness, the knife twisted in my throat. My attacker carved upward, straight to my ear, silencing me forever in one fell stroke. And then an arm wrapped around my mangled neck, trapping me against the person as I thrashed about.

I knew it was Simon. I’d never forget the smell of my favorite person–the anger that laced his being whenever we met. He had come to protect his little girl, like he always did.

But how did he know we’d be here?

Simon slammed me into the wall, breaking open skin and cracking bone.

“Are you above consequence now?” he said between attacks.

Losing consciousness, I tightened my grip around my own blade and stabbed into determination to kill heightened the moment. He never disappointed.

Simon pressed me against the pantry wall and kept me pinned in place. My heart worked against me, pumping my blood out my throat in disturbing amounts.

“You think you were the only one the shadows spoke to?” Simon asked, his voice practically a growl. “But I never gave in to their promises. Unlike you.”

My body–was this agony?–no. It burned, but the pain lessened and lessened. I had no air. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. My vision blackened at the edges.

“You could’ve walked away,” Simon continued through clenched teeth. “Now you’ll suffer for what you’ve done.”

I could feel it coming.

Death.

No. Not death. Something else.

My body went limp. Simon finally released his hold. I crumpled to the floor, my own blood a cold pool that broke my landing.

“Dad! Are you okay?”

“Marie. Everything will be fine. Are you hurt?”

“Y-your arm!”

“It’s okay. It’s okay. I love you, Marie. Come here. We’re leaving. There’s nothing left in here but demons.”

Their footsteps rang a million miles away.

Perhaps I had unraveled reality so many times I no longer existed inside of it. Or perhaps I had hurt so many people that each time I lost a little more of myself in the process. Or maybe I didn’t deserve the warmth the flames of hell would provide. All I knew was that as the waves of death washed over me, I could feel something more. Something permanent. Something shattering my soul and feasting on it one bit at a time.

But that was okay.

Oblivion was one hell of a thrill ride.



If you want to see more of my short story work, please check out the Aeon Writers anthologies–The Hunt (stories about hunting or being hunted) and Twisted Fairy Tales (stories that re-imagine classic fairy tales).

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