Flash Fiction – 1968
Posted On May 17, 2016
From time to time, I am invited to compete in writing contests. I have never done so, until now and I thought I’d share it with you. My submission is for a “Flash Fiction”contest. The piece can be no longer than five hundred words, must use the included photo as a focus point and the verbal prompt of “It was scarier than I remember.” Below is the photo and my submission and I will let you know if I win. Enjoy.
1968, the summer of love plus one. Binh Dugong Province, Viet Nam, Republic of; 23:15 hours.
The lunar table promised a full moon; not under a canopy of jungle growth. Our air was thick, wet, and it distorted my vision like fog; a fog caused by lack of light. The world was two dimensional, dark, and darker. Protrusions were recognized from cavities only by touch. Was something there, or not?
The building was a remnant of a French rubber plantation, used before the French fled. The long low-slung silhouette made me think of barracks, I was familiar with barracks.
“The workers lived there,” I whispered only to myself.
We were three. The enemy was three, maybe four, possibly five, defiantly more than two. They were in the building.
Stink enveloped us. Not strong, or pungent odors, stink. The stink of rotting vegetation, and the stench of mold coated my lungs. The decaying flesh, of both animal and human, left from previous engagements was rank, somewhat sweet, and caught in my nose.
Determined men, unwashed for several days, wearing clothes not laundered urged themselves forward into closer proximity. As the separation reduced, the tension increased.
Sweat dampened every part of me. My shirt soaked, my crotch sticky, and I itched. I smelled myself. I smelled my fear. I tasted it. My mouth bitter, my teeth unbrushed, were rough against my tongue.
I crawled forward through what once was a wall. It was ripped open by an old explosion. I navigated by feel, on my knees and one hand, the other in front of me,searching. Inside the building, it was darker still. My ability to see reduced even more.
I lowered onto my stomach and squirmed across a floor littered with trash, old cigarettes, and monkey dung. I didn’t see the refuse, I smelled it. I crawled through it. I followed my outstretched hand; it now held a knife, it pointed the way, like a bowsprit on a sailboat. My hand shook, the handle slick with my sweat, and I worried I might drop it.
I sensed, and then felt an overturned sofa. I rubbed the velour. I smelled the mustiness as I lay beside it. I was hidden, behind a parapet, and safe.
My silence, like the darkness, protected me. A rat crawled across my arm and stopped to smell me. We looked into each other’s eyes and considered our options. He moved on.
A shadow, low on the floor, attracted my gaze. I watched it and then it moved. Too big for a rat, it was a man.
Friend or enemy, I didn’t know, I couldn’t discern and all the smells mingled.
I was safe not moving. If I attacked, it must be violent. Is he a friend? An enemy, ignored, might kill a friend. I was safe behind my sofa. My heartbeat was loud in my ears.
What should I do?
Forty-five years later, my decision still haunts me.
Even now, it was scarier than I remembered.