Ok, so I’ve missed a couple weeks of terribleminds.com flash fiction challenges. I was busy and kept putting them off until it was too late. Not this week though. This week’s challenge was to take a fairy tale or fable and “rewrite it in a modern context.”
I liked the idea and immediately knew I wanted to take advantage of living in Korea to give this a somewhat unique spin. So, I cracked open a book I picked up here years ago called: Korean Folk & Fairy Tales, retold by Suzanne Crowder Han, and looked for something to click. I found the click when I re-read “The Fortuneteller and the Demons” and used it as the base for this story. Now, I should say that I’ve actually only updated the first half of the story. I try very hard not to break the 1000 word limit set on these challenges because I think it’s good skills practice to write something within the rules you’ve been given. This story is exactly 1000 words. I know how the second half goes, and I might even write it and post it sometime as a sequel but for this challenge I let the story stop at a point in the story that makes for a good flash-fiction ending. I hope you enjoy it. I love to get comments and critiques on my stories and please feel free to wander about the rest of the site. There are more stories, some reviews, a couple posts about inspiration for writing, and a couple other things I think.
When John Lee Met Smiley
John Lee sat on a bench enjoying the cool breeze, and the smell of freshly cut grass it carried from someone’s nearby yard. He heard a truck coming down the road, heard it slow as it drove by him and start to turn into a driveway across the street and a little further on. John couldn’t see the truck, but he could see the extra passenger hanging off the back. No one else could, of course, but the grinning face with the shark like teeth was the only clear thing John could see. John’s world was all darkness, except for the faint, glowing shadows of the living and the clear images of spirits and demons.
Casting about he noticed a young boy. “Excuse me,” John said, “what kind of truck just passed?”
“It’s delivering flowers to the big house over there,” the boy said.
Flower delivery. A celebration? “Are there many cars over there?” John asked.
“Ya, a whole pile of them. People’ve been going in there all day with gifts and stuff,” the boy said.
A birthday, wedding, shower? It didn’t matter, if there was a celebration going then that demon was looking to ruin it, and it didn’t look the subtle type. John stood and unfolded his cane. He listened and didn’t hear any cars, but still called to the boy, “Is the street clear?”
“Sure mister,” the boy said. “You need help?”
John smiled. “No, but thanks, it was kind to offer.” If John was going to go barging into some demon’s business he didn’t want to bring some innocent kid along. Tapping his cane out in his familiar rhythm he started across. He went as fast as he could, but that wasn’t particularly fast and when he got to about where he thought the truck had gone he knew he’d moved too slow.
From inside the house, somewhere to his left, he heard screams and shouts. Two men stepped into John’s ‘view’.
“What the fuck was that?” the first asked.
“Don’t know, keep an eye out for trouble,” the second said.
John tapped his way closer and heard someone call from the house. “Fyodor, there’s an ambulance on the way. Melanie’s collapsed and she’s not breathing!”
“Fuck,” the first man said.
“Excuse me,” John said.
“Fuck off,” the same voice said.
“Move along fella. We don’t have time for you,” the second, less cursey, man said.
“I heard someone say a girl was hurt. I can help,” John said.
“You some fucking blind doctor?” curse-a-lot asked.
“Yes,” John said.
“No fucking way,” the man said.
John faced the other man. ”You’re wasting time. Bring me to Melanie and I can help. Sit out here arguing and she’s dead.”
“Fine, come on. Aleksi, watch for the paramedics.”
Fyodor led John to the house. When the door opened John could hear a cacophony of voices crying and arguing.
“The paramedics?” someone asked.
“No,” Fyodor said,”but this guy was walking by and heard Louis shouting. Says he’s a doctor.”
“He’s blind,” a new someone said.
“Where’s Melanie? You’re wasting time,” John said.
“In here,” the voice John recognized as Louis said. “Everyone get out of the way. Fyodor help him.”
Fyodor led John further into the house and said, “She’s right in front of ya, on the floor.”
John nodded and looked around with his blind eyes. The girl’s image was incredibly faint, but there. In the corner John saw the smiling demon, watching. He dipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a pendant covered in strange symbols, held it up to the demon and knelt beside the girl. He reached out his other hand to feel for the link. The demon stopped smiling.
“What are you doing?” Louis asked. “What kind of doctor are you?”
“The not a doctor kind,” John said.
The cacophony started again. In the corner the demon’s smile started to creep back.
“LOOK! Louis, I can’t see you but let’s assume you look like a smart guy. Melanie is dieing. I’m not a doctor but no one else here was doing anything but freaking out so I assume they aren’t either. The paramedics are coming, but if I’m right they’re going to be too late. I’m trying to save Melanie, and nothing I do will hurt her. I won’t even touch her. When the professionals get here they take over. What’ve you got to lose?”
“I’m taking the fact that Fyodor hasn’t hauled me out of here as consent. Here’s what I need. First, no talking. Second, close all windows and doors. Third, and I can’t stress this enough, turn off all electronics.”
The sound of movement and the shifting of the guests’ shadows told John they were listening, so he began his chanting. Fast then slow. Loud then quiet. The chant started disrupting the demon’s life-killing link with Melanie. That was step one.
It began cursing at him. Real cursing, not the watered down kind Aleksi dabbled in at the end of the driveway. Thankfully step two involved trapping Smiley to be properly disposed of later. Which is exactly what would have happened if someone’s cell phone hadn’t started blaring a Lady Gaga ringtone.
“Sorry,” someone mumbled.
Smiley nodded, said, “Ciao”, and jumped into the phone, escaping like smoke out a chimney.
Melanie started coughing; the freak out began again. Louis had Fyodor help John up, while Melanie’s mother hugged her close.
“Anything you want,” Louis said. “We’ll pay you anything you want.”
“Forget it,” John said. “No good to me now. Goddamn cell phones. The thing that was killing Melanie got away. I don’t have enough time left to enjoy payment.” Then, ignoring all protests and waving off help John tapped his way out of the house and down the drive, wondering how long he had before Smiley got him.
“How hard is it to turn off a cell phone,” he said to himself as he walked away. “How fucking hard is it.”
[Part 2 of this story can be found here.]