Flash Fiction … Maps

I made a terrible mistake when I subscribed to Chuck Wendig’s blog. Now, every Friday I get these little writing challenges emailed to me. Sometimes, I’m able to read and file(writing coaches need prompt ideas), but some other times, an idea comes swinging its way out of my head, demanding some screen time. This Friday’s Flash Fiction Challenge was just such a thing. Because maps.

I’ll get into why I love maps at some point in the future, but until then, here is up to 1,000 words of Friday prompt. Thanks, Chuck Wendig. You distracting distractor.

~ ~ ~

The lines on the map faded the moment Rose picked it up off the floor. She cursed out loud as first the shadings, then the characters, and finally the lines faded to a light gray–and then nothing. A deranged ghost of a giggle echoed in the air. Once again, she was forced to admit, she’d come off the worst in a bargain with the Fae.

Beside her, Frank chuffed and shook himself, Basset ears and drool flying in opposite directions. Jimmy bent over and wiped off his calf, then wiped his hand on his shorts.

“So where do we go now?” He squinted against the glare.

“It’s not like we have much choice.” Rose folded the blank map and stuffed it in her back pocket. Try as she could, she found herself unable to Grasp anything around her, the Magic curiously unresponsive under the harsh double sun. “We either follow him into the maze or we stand out here and die of boredom.”

Jimmy’s eyes did the focus-unfocus thing they always did when Frank was feeling conversational. “And starvation.”

“That, too.” From somewhere in the maze, something that sounded like a truck backfiring startled a flock of leather-winged creatures. They broke from cover, streaking in a disturbed circle, screaming. Just as abruptly, they re-settled on the walls, looking down into the maze. They weren’t too far away that Rose couldn’t pick out a distinctly eager vibe on their visages, as if the only thing they were missing was a bucket of popcorn.

“On the other hand, there are worse ways to go, so maybe we should just stay here.” Jimmy took a step back, almost falling over Frank, who had sheltered valiantly behind him.

“For real?” Rose shook her head and stepped off, choosing to head down the center path, straight into the maze.

A few yards into the labyrinth, Jimmy’s running steps thudded behind, and he and Frank pulled up next to her. They slowed, walking casually.

“So, interesting weather they’re having here.” Jimmy’s voice only shook a tiny bit. “This jerk couldn’t have picked a crossword for his big showdown?”

Rose snorted. “A crossword puzzle?”

“I don’t know–Find-A-Word? Maybe Sudoku?” His eyes unfocused again. “Trail of dog bones?”

“I’d prefer to not find any bones.” Rose stopped. “Speaking of which…”

The center path came to an abrupt end. They had been unable to see from entrance, because the makers of the labyrinth had shrouded the block with an optical illusion of slightly disjointed walls and an abundance of concealing ivy.

“Well, shit.” Rose stretched out her hand, sweeping the ivy to the side. In front of her, there was only more brick wall under the hanging leaves. To her right, she had more luck–a narrow path, barely large enough to walk through with her shoulders touching each side.

“I’ve got something over here,” Jimmy said. He pulled the ivy on the left side away for Rose to see. Instead of another path, this side was blocked by a large, wood door with thick iron ornamental hinges, and an old-fashioned key hole. Next to the door, a large church key hung from a rusted post. “You got any ideas?”

Frank lay down, resting his head on his front paws. It was the Basset version of a shrug.

“No ideas,” Rose replied. “Not even a coin to flip.”

She considered the two choices. An open path with no barriers–if narrow enough to set off her claustrophobia if it didn’t end soon. On the other hand, a door with a conveniently-placed key was definitely untrustworthy. Unless she was reading too much into the situation. Which was also possible. On the other hand…

Rose closed her eyes and shuffled sideways a few feet down the path. She waited. Nothing.

“Um, Rose?” Jimmy cocked his head and frowned, looking somewhat like Frank as he did so.

“Hang on.” Rose waited, then shuffled back to Jimmy’s side. Slowly, she reached for the key, pausing just before touching it. Nothing. “Here goes nothing.”

She picked the large, iron key off the post and placed it in the door. “Ow, crap. Crap, crap, crap.” Leaving the key in the keyhole, she grabbed at her behind. Jimmy watched in bemusement as she fumbled with her back pockets, then finally drew out the map.

Rose spread the paper out, holding it so Jimmy could see. The previously blank parchment now contained a small illustration–the two of them and Frank, standing before a door. She realized Jimmy was staring at her instead of the map.

“It got hot,” she said by way of explanation. “What the hell does this mean?”

“Maybe we’re supposed to go through the door?” Jimmy suggested.

“Or maybe we’re not supposed to go through the door.” Rolling her eyes at the supreme unhelpfulness of the Electric Fae, Rose re-folded the map, cool now to the touch. “Who knows. Let’s just do it and get going before something finds us.”

~ ~ ~

So, that wasn’t the total distraction it could have been. Instead, it was some good drafting for a future scene/showdown for Steel-Toed Blues or a future book in the series. I count it as good words, and I’m going to go and figure out where to stick it in my outline.

Thanks, Chuck Wendig. Happy writing!

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