Wednesday, 17 August 2016

261: In The Dark

Over at “Web Fiction Guide”, GeneralRincewind again posted a challenge, to write a short story (under 1001 words) on a particular theme. The new theme being “Just Dialogue”, hence a story which “is purely composed of dialogue, no story tags or descriptions”. So, as happened last time, I figured I’d give such short fiction a try. Enjoy!



“I was sure I left the matches over here. Jean, are you awake?”

“My my. What’s the problem?”

“Did you move the matches?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Don’t worry about it. Go back to sleep.”

“I can’t. It’s pitch black, I couldn’t turn the lantern on, and when I stumbled over to the light switch, it wouldn’t work either.”

“So? It’s night. You’re better off being in the dark. Sleeping.”

“No, no, I’m not. Something’s wrong, and without light I’m liable to stub my toe while moving around.”

“So don’t move around. You were sleeping peacefully on the couch a few minutes ago, how about you go back there and fall asleep again.”

“Not until I figure out what’s wrong with the cabin’s generator.”

“Oh, for serious? You can do that in the morning, now is not the time to be obsessing over the lights.”

“Jean, we’ve been married for how long?”

“I don’t recall.”

“Almost ten years now. In all that time, have you ever known me to ignore an electrical problem?”

“The place isn’t about to burn down.”

“You can’t know that. More to the point, I do this for a living, and this cabin has been a part of my family for over twenty five years. It shouldn’t take me long to figure out whatever the problem is.”

“The problem is that you woke up. If you’d stayed asleep, you wouldn’t have noticed the issue with the lights at all.”

“Well, I’m awake now. Incidentally, why didn’t you wake me when you went to bed?”

“You looked peaceful.”

“Ow! Dammit, I forgot about that chair..."

“Please, go to sleep already. Maybe an animal gnawed through the wiring, it’s not like you’ll be able to fix that tonight.”

“At least if I see it, I’ll know. Somehow, it’s the not knowing that bothers me.”

“Maybe you’re better off not knowing.”

“The matches aren’t over here with the candles either. Worse, I think our visit up here coincided with a new moon, that’s not helping. My eyes are gradually adjusting though.”

“Okay, know what? You need to drop this and go back to sleep. NOW.”

“Fine, Jean, fine, I’ll at least shut up so that you can rest... wait, there’s something on the floor over there. Did an animal get inside?”

“Whatever got inside, they’re going to be very annoyed with you unless you go back to sleep.”

“I’m serious, there’s something there. Did you hear anything earlier in the night?”

“I heard nothing until my eternal slumber was disturbed by your constant babble.”

“Ha ha. Okay, whatever that shape is, I’m sure it wasn’t there before tonight. Give me a second, I’m going to poke it with a candle.”

“That’s not smart. Don’t get close to it.”

“It didn’t react. Something about it seems familiar though. Wait a minute..."

“You’re not going to go back to sleep, are you.”

“This is a body. Jean, oh my God, this is..."

“Now you’ve done it.”

“Jean, how can I be hearing your voice from over there when your body is over here?!”

“My my. I warned you.”


“I told you it was better off being in the dark.”


Time 4 Backstory

 I tend to write a lot of description. My first thought going into "just dialogue" was - how could anyone manage 500 words without some form of speech tag, let alone 1000?! LUNACY.

 In terms of analysis, it would need to be restricted to two people, MAYBE three if one of them had an identifiable speech impediment. Or a weird inflection. Or was a mime, with the others describing those actions. I briefly considered using a blind narrator, throwing the reader into the same darkness I felt I was experiencing. I went for a blackout instead.

 You know that old cliche of “turning a disadvantage into an advantage”? I tried using it here, in that if I was going to be deprived of the ability to describe the dialogue, that would be the whole point of the story. I like to think that the tale goes a bit differently when the second voice is understood to be Jean (husband or wife, I deliberately picked a gender neutral name), versus once you know the reveal at the end... that the second voice was... NOT Jean. If you feel like re-reading a second time with that in mind, my work here is done. Aside: I’m not fond of horror (reading or writing), so can’t speak well as to whether things work in that context. Feel free to comment though!

 Other short pieces of fiction on this blog include:
-“Suppression” (post #246, the prompt on fantasy disabilities) 
-“No Reason” (post #200, about time travel)
-“Time for a Superheroine” (post #100, also with a temporal theme)

 My longer web serial can be found at: Time & Tied

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