Friday, October 10, 2014

“Trouble in the Dark”– My Flash Fiction Story

Here’s my entry! Caiti gave me the prompt “Those who look for trouble usually find it,” which I wasn’t supposed to use in the actual story. I was given a word limit of 1000 words, which I used all but 2 of (yeah, I got a little wordy). Thanks, Caiti, for my prompt!

And thank you to everyone who participated in this challenge! Check out the other stories!
Also, don’t forget to give comprehensive feedback to at least the person you received a prompt from and the person you gave a prompt to. Feedback is incredibly important for improving our writing. Feel free to comment on the other stories, as well. And, now, I present my story. Let me know what you think!

Trouble in the dark flash fiction

I never should have walked into the alley that night. It had all the classic signs of danger: deep shadows, grime aplenty, even a yowling cat. Too bad I never listened to my inner sense of warning. Besides, my brother was right behind me when I swerved between the two buildings near the wharf.

Turning, I froze. Where’d he go?

“Carson?” Somehow my whisper sounded like a shout against the dingy buildings.

Swallowing hard, I turned in a circle, calling quietly for him again. What was the point of 

having an older brother if he disappeared when you needed him?

And I needed him badly.

Out in the street, footsteps clomped closer. Blarney and his men were drawing closer. Shrinking into the shadows, I tried to control my breathing.

Where could he be?

This whole stupid thing was my fault. And now it looked like I would die alone in an alley, as befitted my recklessness.

But that didn’t mean I wanted to. Biting my lip, I flattened myself against the wall. A low voice rumbled near the entrance to the corridor. Marco, if I figured right. He was the only Italian in the group, though accents were hard to distinguish at such a low volume. Putting a hand over my mouth to block an unintentional squeal, I hugged myself.

“In here, Boss?” Jerry’s grating tone made me wince. “She’s just a little girl. She’d be too scared to go in there.”

“That little girl is far braver than she appears.”

Uh-oh. The big man himself. I should have listened to Carson when he told me to stay away from Blarney.

Stay calm, Tessa.

My cheeks ballooned as I fought to keep my breathing quiet.

“Get in there!” Blarney’s voice rose.

“But, Boss, it’s the Carvers…”

A chill swept through me. Blarney was bad enough. But the Carvers were the true rulers of the wharf. And they were ruthless. Still, Blarney’s men were terrified of them. The problem, of course, was that they scared me, too. I glanced farther down the alley.

“I ain’t goin’ in there, Boss. And if the girl’s as smart as you think, neither would she.”

If Marco refused, the rest of them would, too. I sucked in a little bit of air.

Someone grunted. “Fine. Watch the alley. The rest of you keep searching. I want her found now.”

Steps shuffled away down the street. Maybe I would live, after all. I glanced farther into the alley and my heart rate jumped. Blarney’s men could easily outwait me. Breathing out slowly, I peered toward the street. The shadow of a man extended into the alley.

When the shadow moved, I flattened myself tighter against the wall. Maybe the Carvers weren’t as bad as the stories. I stared at darkness. I’d never actually met a member of the Carver clan. Could I move quietly enough to escape Marco’s notice? I slid one foot over. He didn’t move. I took another step and disturbed a metal can. Wincing, I pulled back against the wall.

Swearing, the Italian glanced into the alley. Moonlight fell on his dark beard and made his right eye glint while his left remained in shadow.

God in Heaven, please help me.

After a moment, he pulled away, and I resumed my trip toward the end of Carver’s Alley. Shadows enveloped me and I pulled my coat close against a sudden chill. A cat dashed in front of me, making me jump. Glancing back, I took a deep breath. When a door squealed, I put fists up. Then someone covered my mouth and dragged me into a building.

The door shut, sealing out all light.

“Tessa, are you insane?”

“Carson?” His gloved hand muffled my words.

He pulled it away, breathing hard. “Why do you always dash into trouble like that?”

Heaving a huge sigh, I stepped back. “Where’d you go?”

A flame hissed to life, and then a red glow emerged in the corner. The lantern showed my brother’s face, more deeply lined than I’d ever seen it. Crates surrounded us and a revolver rested on a box across the room.

I swallowed hard. “Carson, why are you in here?”

His mouth jerked. “We need to get you home, little sister.”

“Don’t call me that!”

He rushed over, putting a finger against his lips. The blue of his eyes deepened. “Do you even realize what you’ve gotten yourself into? They’re still looking for you out there, and being loud could get us both killed.”

Looking down, I rubbed my arms. “Sorry.” But what was going on?

As he herded me toward a hallway, a thump sounded in the alley.

My chest seized. “Carson, what was that?”

Grabbing the revolver, he pushed me away. “Go into the hallway.”

I crouched by the wall. Then running came from farther in the building. I jerked my head up.

“Dillon needs help immediately!”

Who was Dillon? And why did it sound like people were headed this way?

A tall man skidded around the corner and halted. “Who are you?”

I swallowed hard. “Who are you?” My smile wouldn’t have convinced my mostly-blind grandmother.

He drew himself up even taller. “Janson Carver.”

Oh no.

Carson stepped out from the back room and squeezed his eyes shut briefly. “Janson, Blarney’s gang is headed down the alley.”

And here I thought they were too scared. My heart thudded in my chest.

Eyeing me, Janson nodded. “You’re the boss, Dillon.”

I swung toward him. “What?”

He put a hand up as Janson and several other men raced past us. Then he grasped my shoulders. “We are the Carvers.”

“What?!” I jerked away from him, shaking my head. “That doesn’t make any sense. The Carvers are a vicious wharf gang. You’re my brother. And why did he call you Dillon?”

He stared at the ceiling for a moment. Then, grimacing, he looked at me. “It’s a cover. The Carvers aren’t real.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Then what are they?”



  1. I believe it was Caiti who gave you your prompt, not me :)
    But wow, loved your story! Especially the twist at the end, did not see that coming at ALL.
    The only thing was at the beginning I wasn't sure why Tessa was going into the alley in the first place, if it was that dangerous.
    But other then wrote it in a beautifully suspenseful way, I could feel the danger. Awesome story! :)
    And thanks again for having the challenge!!

    1. *slaps forehead* Oops! I knew that! :/

      Thank you so much! *grin* I liked it, myself. You have a good point about the beginning. I procrastinated on this for too long, so I was rushing by the time I finished. And the concept changed as I wrote, but I didn't have the time to streamline it. Your point is incredibly valid, though! Thanks for your input!

  2. *cough* Actually, I gave you the prompt. :p Leanne gave a prompt to Katie.

    I really enjoyed your story (partially because I love secret agent/detective/gun-stories. :) ). You did really well with implying the prompt, without actually using the words. That's always been a challenge for me, so I'm impressed. :) I admit, I didn't actually understand the twist at the end until my Mom explained it to me...

    Your first sentence gives the impression of a story told in retrospect— Like she is already out of the story, safe and sound, and is relating it to someone a few (or perhaps many) years later. That gives the story a sense of... Of kind of "safe" danger, because an attentive reader will know that if she is telling the story in restrospect, clearly she got out all right. Personally, I would remove the two last words, changing it to "I never should have walked into the alley," because that gives the sense that maybe she's still in the alley, and still in danger. That sense of immediacy and suspense is my personal preference, though; at this point, it depends on the tone you want for the story (the rhythm of the sentence without those last two words seems off to me, though).

    "It had all the classic signs of danger: deep shadows, grime aplenty, even a yowling cat. Too bad I never listened to my inner sense of warning." I love these lines. :) They remind me so much of detective dramas from the nineteen-forties and -fifties.

    "[...] footsteps clomped closer. [...] drawing closer." Here, you end two consecutive sentences with the same word. Doing so can make a story feel choppy, so you might want to change one or the other to a different word.

    "Putting a hand over my mouth to block an unintentional squeal, I hugged myself." Now, this may be just me, but the word "squeal" will always have fangirl connotations— Meaning it's usually meant as a good sound, such as a squeal of pleasure or excitement. It took me a second to realize this was a squeal of fear. Generally, you want to avoid anything that will make your reader step out of your story for even the shortest amount of time, and if it takes a second to figure out what you mean by a particular word/phrase, you're pulling them out of the story for a few seconds. This pulled me out of the story for a moment (though that may be just me), so you may consider changing.

    I noticed that you begin a large portion of your sentences with "and" or "but". While I think that's fine from time to time, maybe you over-used it a bit in this story? (Come to think of it, I may have over-used it in mine, too...) Also, you use the word "Then" at the beginning of a sentence rather frequently.

    I really like your character of Carson (and the name— I really like your choice of name, too. :) ). He's just that type of heroic older brother that captures my imagination. I particularly like these pictures of him:

    'Grabbing the revolver, he pushed me away. “Go into the hallway.”'


    "Carson stepped out from the back room and squeezed his eyes shut briefly."

    Altogether, there's an impressive amount of story in this 998 words. I enjoyed it. :)

    1. I'm so sorry, Caiti! I greatly appreciated your prompt, even if I did cite the wrong person. :(

      I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I realized after I posted this that not everyone would know who the Pinkertons were. Sorry about that. :(

      Hmm, you bring up an interesting point about the tone. As I told Leanne above, the concept changed as I wrote it, and I sold myself short on time, so I didn't fix the problems in tone. Initially, I had a definite feeling of writing in retrospect, but that changed in my head. In rewriting, I should rework that. Though, I agree: the sentence is kind of off without "that night."

      *laughs* I definitely drew from my impressions of classic detective stories for that sentence. :)

      Good notes on those sentences and "squealed." Those will definitely be things to fix! Definitely don't want to pull readers out of the story!

      Aw, I'm glad you liked Carson! I wanted to develop his part much more, but my word limit did curb things. The whole Pinkerton set-up interested me the most, so I might expand that if I made this longer.

      Thanks so much for your input, Caiti! I appreciate the time you took, and your notes are very helpful! :)


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