For this week, the Flash Fiction challenge was to write a story based on one of six settings--with each one specifying the time, weather, location, and feeling. I got "It's noon. There's bright sunshine. You're high up in a mountain. There's a creepy feel to the place."
Here's my story. Written very last minute, just proving t myself that I do well with last minute deadlines, especially when I already have planned out the character, their issues, and plot points. Basically a fill in the blanks after that for m, then a quick edit. Mine was just at the 1000 word limit.
It was a beautiful day, with the warm sun right overhead, and yet I felt a sudden chill. I was high up in the mountains, trying to enjoy the fresh air, the peace and quiet, and forget the mess I’d left back home. Sharon had left me, after five years together and our wedding just a month away. Then I’d been fired. Ten years I’d worked for that ass-hole, long hours, seven days a week.
I sighed, and sat on a rock. All the way up here, and I couldn’t relax. Something felt not quite right.
"Oh look, another climber."
I turned suddenly--there was someone standing back in the shadows. A woman, young, small, with short blonde hair.
"Oh, you startled me," I said.
She nodded, without smiling. "Yeah, I do that. You’re a climber?"
"Yes," I said. "Needed to get away from life. I’m tired of it all."
"Life isn’t all that bad," she said.
I shook my head. "My fiance dumped me, I lost my job—if my truck wasn’t still running I’d be a country and western song."
She giggled. "Cute line." She paused. ""I’m Greta. And you?"
"Derek." I started to get up, hand held out, but she drew back farther into the shadows.
"That’s okay," she said. "So, another climber. What’s your long story? Just a cliche?
"I hope not," I said. I filled her in on all my woes, painting such a dismal picture I succeeded in depressing myself even more. When I finally stopped, she just shrugged.
"Yeah, sometimes life sucks," she said. She moved a bit out of the shadows and pointed up the rock face. "Are you here to climb this? Going to go the easy Trad way, with ropes? Or is that too conservative for you?"
I stood and spread my arms. "See any ropes here? Just my shoes and some chalk – skill and strength. I checked it out from here, seems quite doable. Just watch me."
She gave a cold little smile. "Oh, I’ll be watching. It’s harder than it looks, but nobody believes me."
"Have you climbed it," I asked.
She waved me on. "Yes, but I have my own style. Go ahead Derek, show me your stuff."
To be honest, it had been a while since I’d taken time from work, or Sharon, to climb. Halfway up and I could already feel the burn. And it was damn hot in the sun. I wiped the sweat from my eyes and studied the route. Greta had been right, up here those easy grips were a little farther apart than I’d thought, the rock face not as solid as I’d hoped. I grabbed for the next hold, pushed up with a foot, and felt the earth drop out beneath me.
Shit. Hanging by my fingers, I searched for a toehold in vain.
"So Derek, how we doing here?"
I turned my head cautiously. Greta was right next to me, smiling, slim hand gripping a handhold next to my face, her blonde hair glowing in the sun. Then I realized that, no, that was the sun, and I was looking through her semi-transparent head.
I almost lost my grip. "You’re, you’re . . ."
"I’m Greta," she said. "Oh, and a ghost—did I not mention that?"
"You don’t exist. Must be the sun, or I’m dehydrated."
She shifted her grip, then touched one of my hand with hers for a moment. It was ice-cold.
"No, I’m here," she said. "And have been for years. My so-called friends even named this face after me—Greta’s Reach they called it. After they had mocked me as I tried to climb it, with none of them even trying to help. And then were all properly horrified when I fell to my death. So now I wait for the next climber. I can appear almost solid if I want to. We chat, they climb, they fall. Very few make it. I don’t think you will, Derek. Too bad, you seemed nice. Maybe I’ll try to lead your friends here to find your body."
My hands were starting to cramp. And I was chatting with a ghost. "I’ve no friends. No time for them."
"Well, Derek, are you still tired of life?"
"No, I think I’d like to give it another try. Could you help me, please? Look, I can get the park to add a plaque for you, I can come back and chat."
She gazed at me thoughtfully. "Could we be friends?"
"Yes," I said. I was ready to promise anything. "Just help me get a toehold."
She smiled, let go of the rock, and started to float down. "Part of my own technique. But I can climb this old-style too, you know. Lot’s of practice. Just let me move your foot over."
There was that icy grip again. Then, my foot was jammed into a sold crack. That was enough. Carefully, with the occasional hint from Greta, I made it to the top. I took her cold hand in both of mine.
"Thank you so much, I owe you my life."
"Yes, you do," she said. "But I think coming back and visiting will be enough."
I nodded. It was the least I could do, and she was nice to talk to.
"Yes, I promise. Just let me get back to the city and straighten things out then I’ll be back for a visit. Several visits." Maybe I could even talk her out of letting others fall to their death.
The return trail was pretty easy. Within an hour I was at my truck and ready to head back to whatever life I could figure out. I turned on the air conditioning, then shivered as it kicked in.
I almost ran off the road.
"Greta! What the f—"
She smiled from the seat next to me. "I thought I might as well come with you. It feels like we have some sort of connection, don’t you think?"