fiction

98.8% of people can’t watch this video for more than 5 seconds

Some more clickbait-inspired fiction. I really enjoyed writing this, and I love the premise (heavily Ring-inspired, of course) but I don't think it came out very well. I present it to you as a second draft, favouring productivity over perfection.

98.8% of people can’t watch this video for more than 5 seconds

“Looks like another one,” said the detective, pausing to inhale deeply from a small electronic device. It glowed in time with his breath. “What does that make it now, 10 this week?”
“At least," said the technician beside him, his camera flash casting the crime scene into bright white light, “It’s the 7th I’ve worked on, and I know that there are more across town.”

They were standing in a large open-plan office, low-walled cubicle after cubicle stretching off across the floor. It was night outside, but the fluorescent office lighting destroyed all sense of natural light and time of day. The office was deserted apart from the police staff who had cordoned off the area; before they arrived, it was only occupied by the man who sat before them in the office chair. He was slumped back, his head hanging backwards, tongue out, eyes wide. Same as the victims in the other cases. In front of him, the screen showed another familiar sight: the black rectangle of a video player on a web page, button in the centre inviting the viewer to play the video again.

“What’s on the video, anyway?” Asked the detective.
“More than my job’s worth to find out, boss,” said the technician, “The guys at the lab can tell you all about it, I’m sure, but I just want to stay away. I do the crime scenes, that’s all.”
“How long do you think he lasted?”
“Hmmm…” The technician put down his camera, and with white latex gloves covering his hands, took the head, and tilted it left and right. “Neck isn’t too stiff…” he pulled at the deceased man’s eyelids, “Eyes are bloodshot… I guess he lasted 3-4 seconds.”
“Not bad.” Sighed the detective, taking another drag on his e-cigarette.

“Sir?” Came a cry from across the office, down a corridor to the right. “Sir? You’d better come and see this!”

The detective turned and walked towards the voice. The technician grabbed his camera and followed. They passed meeting rooms, chairs neatly aligned and tables cleared ready for the next day, and then the doors of private offices, each adorned with an executive’s name and job title. Eventually they reached an open door.

“Through here, sir,” called the man who had shouted to them. It was a police officer. “I found him like this. Haven’t touched anything.”

The computer screen had been kicked off the desk and was broken on the floor. The keyboard had been swiped clean across the room. There was a corpse sat at the desk, facing the door. He was slumped forward, but his neck was pulled back, as if someone had grabbed his hair to raise his head. His hands were set just wide of his shoulders, fingers spread and tense. His legs were curled under the chair.

“I haven’t checked, but I’d guess that he’s not going to be moved easily…” Said the police officer.
“No way,” said the technician, “He’ll be fully locked up like that. We’ll probably have to crowbar him off the chair.”
“Have you ever seen anyone this advanced before?” asked the detective, turning to the technician.
“Nope, never.“ he replied. “I mean, I’ve heard of it, but never seen it. I don’t think it’s ever even happened in this city. You have to watch the video for maybe 8, 9 seconds to get like this.”
“9 seconds? Jesus christ!” cried the policeman. “I’ve heard stories, but… How?”
“Some people are made of strong stuff.” replied the detective. “Come on, let’s process him and get out of here. Send the hard drives to forensics, see who they’ve emailed links to. Let’s get out of here before the bar closes.”

A Child's First Steps Are Always Special

Another clickbait-inspired bit of fiction. I'm not quite sure why this headline painted such a sinister picture in my head, but it did. Hope you like it.

A Child's First Steps Are Always Special. His Were Special Because They Weren't Supposed To Happen.

“So, tell me again why I’m doing this?”

The child was turned away from him, oblivious to his actions. The revolver was pressed to the child’s head.

“Because he brings about the end of the world. We know it happens. This way, we can stop it.”
“How do we know?”
“We’ve been through this a thousand times, the prophecy has never been wrong. Just do it. Do it before it’s too late.”
“I can’t… I just can’t.” His arm swung down, heavy with the weight of the gun.

The child turned and looked up at him. It was a small boy, just 4 or 5. He had short, blond hair, and fair features. He was wearing a white shirt and blue dungarees. He looked, to him, like the future of the world, not the end of it. The voice echoed again over the tannoy.

“Do it!”
“No. No, I can’t.”
“It has to happen this way, Frank.” the voice rang out into the desert. “We end it here, that’s how it is.”
“Can’t we just… Leave him out here? He won’t survive alone.”
“That doesn’t guarantee anything. He could still grow up and then…. Then it’ll all happen. Just like it says. I’m not letting you in until you do it.”

Frank looked up at the heavy iron gate, and out at the desert. A young boy couldn’t survive outside the compound. It was impossible.

“Come on, Frank. Pull the trigger.”

Frank looked at the boy. The boy looked up at him.

“Run, little man. Run away. Just go.”

Until now, the boy looked like he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, but Frank didn’t have to say another word. The boy stood, looked once more at Frank, and began to run.

This Young Woman Dances With Her Soul

In recent months, social networks have been filled with sensationalist clickbait headlines. As with the news, the headline is usually more exciting than the story within, so I often make up my own stories to go with them. I realised that this makes the common clickbait sites like Upworthy a great source for writing prompts, so I’ve decided to use them to practice my short stories. Here’s the first one I wrote.

This Young Woman Dances With Her Soul, But To Some, That Isn’t What God Would Want

We all held hands as the teenage girl at the head of the table began to chant and sway from side to side. Her eyes were closed, revealing large black crosses painted over them with long, splattered streaks. Her hair was big and messy: not flowing, but stumbling down her back, interwoven with tattered ribbons. She looked malnourished.

“They’re coming…” she whispered, “They’re almost here…”

If the rest of the room had dared look up, they would have seen a mist descend on the room, a cold, grey fog that they felt as a shiver, and they would have seen it converge on the young girl and flow slowly but steadily into her ears and eyes and mouth. But they didn’t look up. No-one dared. We all kept our heads down, eyes closed, hands clasped tightly in a circle around the table. We heard the girl gasp, cough, and then she began to speak in someone else’s voice.

“What?!” She cried, sounding like an old American man, “What fresh hell is this?!”
“Relax,” said the man sat next to her, reassuringly, “We’ve just brought you here to ask you some questions.”
“No no no, that’s not why I’m here at all!” the American man replied, “You’ve brought me here to kill me! You’ve killed me!”
“I’m afraid you’re already dead, sir. We’ve brought you here from the spirit world. You died quite some time ago.”
“No no, don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I know that I’m already dead? Let me go before it’s too late. There isn’t much time. Let me go!”

I opened my eyes and looked up from across the table. The spirit had taken control of the girl’s body completely and shook her like an empty hand puppet. I heard her bones click and crack against each other. Her hair fell over her face as she contorted back and forth. Her hands stayed held tight in the hands of the people beside her.

“It’s ok, sir, just a few questions,” said the master of ceremonies, “Just a moment of your time, if you will.”
“No no no-”

The spirit was cut short by the sound of a gunshot. The woman opposite the girl at the table was standing, smoking gun in her hand, the expelled bullet lodged somewhere in the medium’s brain. A large golden crucifix hung down from the shooter’s neck, splattered with blood. The tiny girl slumped back in the chair. Her painted eyes were closed. Her open mouth began to leak a fine grey mist. We all panicked - some gasped, some screamed, some people ran out of the room. I just sat and stared in disbelief.

“One more dealt with, Mr. Saren”, said the woman, placing the gun back into her robe. “Where are we headed next?”
The man beside her stood and turned to leave. “Oh, anywhere. There are sinners all around us, these days.”