Michael, You’re Screwed

So, do you remember me mentioning Melanie’s Writing Games? Well, here is the result. The first game consisted of this: a character of yours being abducted by the guys from survival program “Dude, You’re Screwed.” Unfortunately I’ve never seen the program and had no way of seeing it, so I’ve pretty much guessed. I can probably safely say that Michael, from my Twyned Earth novels, has GOT to be the fastest to lose the game.

I present to you:


Michael, You’re Screwed!

When the hood was pulled from his head, Michael wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. ‘Lighten up,’ they said. ‘It’ll be a laugh,’ they said. As the light filled his eyes and the landscape before him was revealed, he wasn’t so sure. The air that filled his lungs was so hot and thick it was chewy, and it tasted like compost.

When he was abducted by these over excitable survivalists, he’d expected they would dump him in the middle of a forest somewhere. Which, to be fair, they had done. He just wasn’t expecting this forest. The trees in front of him were enormous, hulking things with bark black as night and heavy drooping branches that reached to the uneven, marshy ground. Through them could be seen the thick gnarled trunks. He stared at them and they stared back. One of them blinked, looked mildly puzzled, rolled its eyes and then took to ignoring him. The rest of the trees followed suit very quickly.

To his side, Michael spotted a rather bulky man with a crew cut and a camera who gave him a rather sheepish smile. “Did that tree just wink at me?”

“Just how much research did you guys do on this place?” Michael asked.

“Well, I’m not supposed to help you,” the guy answered.

Michael’s shoulders dropped. “We’re going to die.”

The man with the camera glanced at his watch, a thick chunky thing that looked as though it had about a thousand functions. “Only ninety nine hours and fifty five minutes to go. Better get shifting.”

A little whine escaped Michael’s throat and he started to take a step forward. As he put his foot down though, the tree directly in front of him began to growl. He lifted his foot again and the low rumble fell silent. He sighed.

“How am I supposed to get out of here?” he asked to the cameraman.

“I really can’t help you,” he replied. “It’s against the rules.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “Is killing you against the rules?”

The large man looked at Michael’s dumpy shape, then at his own barrel chest. “Can give it a go if you like.” He grinned.

Michael exhaled, looking back to the trees, trying to decide who he had less of a chance with. Eventually, he decided to give the trees another shot. The threatening growl sounded again as Michael’s foot came close to the ground, but he took a deep breath and placed it firmly in front of him.

The tree’s trunk split into a horizontal slit, a horrifying and ragged maw filled with uneven barky teeth. It swung its heavy branches at Michael, smacking him off his feet like a he’d been hit by a lorry. As he travelled through the air and darkness enclosed him, his last fleeting thought was:

Can I go home yet?

The Shower

Harold awoke to a terrifying sound. It was both a hiss and a rumble, deep and brash, loud enough that the vibrations wracked his body. The peaceful sanctuary he had stopped to rest in was awash with chaos. Baleful orbs of water fell from the sky, larger than his own head. They pelted within inches of his body, their disturbance of the air palpable. Instinct kicked in immediately and he knew that he had to move. Only death awaited here.  Far below, the water pooled and swept away debris with a fierce current – one he knew he could never fight.  To either side, the verdant drape Harold clung to curled in toward that vicious rainfall. There was only one way. Up.

A stab of panic sliced through his thorax as he tried, unsuccessfully, to move his leg. The appendage was drenched in water, the strong membrane pinning him down. His heart convulsed in fear as he whipped his gangly body about in a frenzy, flailing from side to side. It held him fast. The weight was unbearable, stifling. Hope began to sweep away from him.

And then he saw her face.

A brief flash across his vision, her beautiful face.

Maria…

The quiver of her antennae, the multifaceted emeralds that were her eyes. In that moment, she was his strength. He reminded her of everything he had to live for. Of a wonderful wife who would be left alone. Of three hundred children raised without a father. Determination slammed into him with all the force of the drops from above. He commanded his leg to move and it did, eking slowly at first but it moved. Harold strained against the grip, refusing to relent, body quaking with exertion. The membrane gave and Harold lurched upwards.

He scrambled onward, ignoring the screams of his aching body and the trembling of his limbs, dragging himself up and up as fast as he could. Water sloshed toward him, dangerously close, and the air grew thicker and thicker, hot and dense with vapour. His breathing was laboured and unsatisfying, each lungful merely keeping him conscious and doing nothing to stave off the crushing feeling of suffocation.

And suddenly, time was standing still. Water hung suspended in the air. All the vapour in the world could not have made Harold have felt as breathless as the sudden sense of dread he now held. Very slowly, like the crawl of a glacier, it turned to look at him. The thing, the thing that basked in the fitful pelting of the water, turned and looked at him. Harold did not know what they were, nor did he want to know. He wanted as little to do with them as possible. The things were gargantuan creatures of bizarre proportions, their legs barely longer than their bodies and heads grotesquely large. Some said they were keepers of the earth. Others said they were gods. It didn’t matter. They only ever reacted one of two ways to Harold’s people. Hateful anger or cold indifference.

The thing eyed Harold, the protective layer gliding over its eyes and back. He was overcome with jealousy that the creature could hide its sight in such a way. All he could do was stare, betrayed by his own vision, forced to watch his fate with the torturous drag of time. Eventually, the creature chose its path. Choosing cold indifference, it turned its back on him and he was forgotten.

Reality came crashing back to Harold. He was alive. Struggling and suffocating, but he was alive and his resolve remained. This was clearly a sign, he thought. He was meant to live. He chose to live. He continued to climb, fighting his way every agonising step until finally he was mere inches from the top. Then the water stopped. Silence tumbled around him, the only sound to be heard was the persistent throbbing of his heart. It took a moment of confusion for him to realise what had happened but when he did he waved his antennae in elation. He’d made it.

The curtain was thrown back and folds of it came crashing against him. Enveloped in darkness and motion, he could barely hang on, a mere two of his feet left clinging desperately to the fabric, all that was keeping him from plummeting to the damp, soapy abyss. His four loose legs scrambled for purchase but in his panic and disorientation, he could find no hold. As suddenly as the turmoil had started though, it ended. The curtain was pulled taut again, giving Harold the space and light he needed to compose himself and cling safely. He wasted no time in hoisting himself up the last little bit, over the top of the drape and onto the rail.

He hunkered down, taking a moment to try and catch his breath in the thick air. The thing moved on the other side of the curtain now, ignorant or simply uncaring as to Harold’s presence. It moved over to the great screen of light and began to toy with it. Harold watched, forgetting his own near death and laboured breathing. The thing lifted something and then pushed. The screen of foggy light fell away and pure, unhindered light spilled through. At first Harold thought he was hallucinating but a blast of cold, pure oxygen filled air penetrated his lungs, the feeling of which was almost euphoric. He scrambled to his feet to get a better look. The trails of mist upon the air spun and danced as the fresh, untainted breeze from outside swept in, mingling with it.

Freedom.

Harold didn’t need another sign. There had been too many already. He was supposed to live. He would see Maria and all his little children again. He was supposed to live.

Giddy with joy, he leapt from the rail and into the air, wings spreading and hammering to keep him aloft. He whizzed toward the open portal to the outside world, to freedom, to victory. And as he passed the threshold from the watery prison and into the world, he pumped his antennae victoriously into the air.

When, really, he should have been keeping an eye out for that chaffinch.