Writers warmed up to disorientation like spring calves to their mamas. Expressing the ways in which a story, character or scene can be lost and confused led to a variety of situations familiar and strange. Disorientation can be evocative and it can build great tension.
The writers turned up in full force this week. The following stories are based on the January 28, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about disorientation.
The Beast by Phil Guida
Heading north on Hwy 99 just south of the grapevine, I was swallowed by the Beast. A tightly woven envelop of Tule Fog that snaked its body throughout the San Joaquin Valley. No sites, no smells, just a cold cloud that blinds you to everything near. Somewhere between Bakersfield and Fresno, “where the hell I’m I”? Fear filled my cabin, heart pounding, hands sweating profusely, nothing but miles of thick whiteness ahead of me. No escape route to choose, I crept along until a semi’s tail lights flashed before me, releasing me from the mighty grip of the beast.
When Memory Lane Turns into a Stroll by C. Jai Ferry
Stagnant cologne emanated from her clothes, suffocating her in the tiny kitchen. Remnants of a late-night burger were piled on the unfamiliar Formica counter. Her stomach lurched, belching up bubbles laced with last night’s Stolichnaya, and she wiped crusty mascara from her eyes. Her head pulsated in a dull thud while flashing visions of popcorn ceilings and her red lace bra and her keys clanging against cold bathroom tile. She shuffled from the kitchen just as she heard a door handle click open. She froze, pleading with her synapses to connect the dots. Just whose apartment was she in?
Up is Down by Jeanne Lombardo
He’d caught a good one, slipped into the swell right before it crested, paddled hard to keep with it, raced the vanguard foam, till he felt it lift him, carry him on enormous blue shoulders, powerful, the sun blazing, the gulls screaming, the distant shouts spangling the air, the majestic length of the wave tunneling its way to the shore. Riding it! Flying the board of his body through it! Then a flinch. A tumble. A battering of bubbles. Tossed like flotsam. Limbs akimbo. Eyes stinging. Lungs exploding. Salt. Compression. Pumping to the surface. Hitting the sandy sea floor.
Disorientation in Haiti by Anne Goodwin
Some put their faith in gold, God and governments; I thanked gravity for my anchor in this turbulent world. Friends and lovers might desert me, but Mother Earth was always there. April to October I went barefoot: pounding on asphalt, shuffling through sand or squelching mud between my toes, corporeally connected to solid ground.
I thought I’d gone mad when I heard the rumbling in her bowels. I never imagined the earth would betray me, let her surface crack like an egg. Soil in my mouth, grass in my hair, feet touching only air, I never dreamt I’d survive.
Ramona Makes a Deposit by Charli Mills
Morning light pressed through cracks in the old hay barn. Ramona stood on the front bumper of the stored 1967 Chevy truck to attach battery cables the way Vic used to. She could hear him muttering instructions to her although he’d been dead six months. The VA released widow’s benefits that she needed to deposit in Spokane. His muttering didn’t help her 78 miles away when she couldn’t decide if the circled arrow signed right or left. She turned the wrong way up a one-way and had to explain why she drove through the front lobby of the bank.
And Friend Came Too! by Tally Pendragon
It always feels weird! But I’ve never been further than fifty years before, and never with a very large wolfhound in tow – his name is Friend, and I have the feeling he will be accompanying me for a while to come from now on. This being his first time travel experience he’ll have nothing to measure it against. As for me? Well, read on …
When I open my eyes everything’s dancing. I’d say I am disorientated, only I’ve never been to 1st century Roman Judaea before, so what–.
“You must be Merlin! I’m Anna, and we’ve been expecting you!”
Excluded by Delirium by Paula Moyer
Why would Jean’s son Martin have a party right across from her hospital room and not invite her? She thrashed around, but the IVs, oxygen tube, postoperative pain were limiting.
Just across the curtain, she knew, was a party room. She could hear the clink of ice in glasses, gentle chuckles, fireplace crackles. It was sad, being so close and yet not allowed to participate.
Something happened, a light switch, coughing. Jean woke up.
No party. No party room.
Ouch. The cough of aspiration pneumonia – her own.
She drifted asleep again. The party rewound and repeated. All night long.
The Number 59 by Nicky Torode
Half listening to the fading tones from the radio, she drifted into sleep. Woken by the seven o’clock pips, she opened her burning eyes. Stuffing her notes into her rucksack, she headed for the door, missing her step. Double shot today she thought. A hammering in her ears and threads swimming before her eyes unsettled her. She got on the 59, the bus in the news story. Urgent screams in a foreign language followed by ratatat of gun fire. Her body tensed, she dropped to the floor. Student, 30, alive after bus killing spree, the newsreader had announced.
Birthday Party by Sarah Unsicker
The air is dark, the music salty. Shoelaces glow; neon lights shine, but do not illuminate.
People huddle, but do not invite. People swarm everywhere, numerous as the chairs on wheels. The chairs are predictable. When moved, they slide. When spun, they turn. Spinning them with eyes closed blocks out the confusion of the bowling alley.
You carry an unwieldy sphere to the line, hold it between your spindly legs, and push it forward. Your muscles strain with the effort of coordination. Pins drop all around as your ball rolls to a stop in the middle of the lane.
Cheerleader Spirit by Sarah Brentyn
Mary looked graceful in the water—like a mermaid. The girls on the dock squinted their eyes in envy.
“I totally hate her.”
“Good thing she can’t hear you. You’d be eating lunch at the loser table on Monday.”
Mary looked up toward her friends but found sand and seaweed. The sunlight seemed to be on every side of her. Twisting, flailing, searching for the surface, she screamed for help, taking lake water into her lungs.
“She always has to be the best at everything.”
“Screw this. I’m outta here.”
Without a glance back, they left.
Whiteout by Susan Zutautas
Hands clenched around the steering wheel, knuckles white, and heart pounding with fear.
Flurries were forecasted this afternoon but not total whiteouts.
I should have stayed at school.
Wanting desperately to pull over as I couldn’t see a thing in front of me, I kept hearing a little voice in my head saying, “No one will see you and you’ll get rear-ended for sure.”
Suddenly I saw tail lights from another car and followed it until I could no longer see them.
Winds were strong, and I was fighting to keep my car on the road.
Whiteouts finally cleared.
Welcome To The Jungle by Sherri Matthews
“C’mon Trudi, don’t be a spoil-sport,’ whined Carla. “We’ll have a blast!”
Trudi peered inside. “But it’s late…”
Grabbing Trudi’s hand, Carla marched her through the door as heads swiveled.
Trudi staggered across the room, strobe lights searing her vision, heavy base pounding in her chest. “I can’t…see…” She reached for the nearest chair and missed, collapsing on the floor.
“What the hell Jake, why did you give her that pill?” Carla seethed as she dialed for the ambulance.
Jake looked down as Trudi vomited on his boots and passed out.
Good news? Bad news? by Geoff Le Pard
Mary sat, conscious of her hands vibrating. ‘Am I mad, doctor?’
‘Mad? No.’ Dr Penfold tapped at the keyboard. ‘The blood test was fine. You’re a healthy woman.’ He paused. ‘It might be anxiety. You are…’ Another pause. ‘You’re pregnant.’
Mary nodded slowly. She felt herself float, watching the scene from above. The doctor’s eyebrow rose, testing the news to see if it was good or bad. The sweat on her neck, chilling in a light breeze. A voice filled her head, a comforting voice. Mary replied. ‘Shh Sharon.’ Her twin, her dead twin breathed again and Mary shivered.
Restroom Signage by Larry LaForge
He’d never had a jello shot before. Now he’s had at least one too many.
He heads down the narrow hallway toward the restrooms at The Chic Bar, keeping one arm on the wall for balance. At the end of the hall there are two metal doors, both labeled only with a fancy stick figure. He scratches his head. The figures look nearly identical, especially with his fuzzy vision. He turns his head sideways, but it doesn’t help.
With no time to waste, he shrugs his shoulders and proceeds.
Sudden, loud screams don’t help his throbbing head.
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.
Obfuscation by Norah Colvin
The pulsing train wheels pounded in my head.
Way off in the distance voices called instructions to each other.
“What day is it?” I said.
The voices were closer now. “She’s in here.”
“Can you walk? Come with us,” they said.
They led me to a vehicle and bade me lie down inside.
Then came the questions:
What’s your name? When were you born? What day is it? Why are you here? Who are you with?
Slowly, as if from the deepest recesses, I drew each recalcitrant answer, recreating identity.
“You’re okay. You bumped your head,” they said.
Learning by Rebecca Patajac
I’m holding tight, too tight, relax the hands, relax the back, breathe. It’s okay.
Lights flash past. Eyes dart up, down, left, right, checking. They settle straight ahead for a moment, only to dart around again and again, keeping tabs on all surrounds.
Hands are gripping tighter again. Relax. Breathe.
So many things to focus on—perhaps too many things.
I can hear our little ones asleep behind us.
Look up. Focus. How fast? Who’s behind? Where do I need to go?
I flick the indicator, looking left. I merge.
I wonder when the confidence will come.
The Results are in! by Ruchira Khanna
“Harry the results are in!” shouted Mom while holding the newspaper in one hand and giving a hard push to the sleepy head.
“So what do I do?” came a torpid reply.
Confused mom stared at him in bewilderment.
Gulped in order to control her temper, and tried to speak softly while avoiding to break off, “Well, give me your number, and let’s check if you cleared.”
“Sure, first let me catch up on my sleep. The results are here to stay!”
Perplexed Mom was astonished and wondered where is the element of excitement located in her son.
Disoriented by Irene Waters
The conversation floated around Horry like swirls of mist. Some came at him thick and fast. Too fast for him to make sense of. Others came slower allowing time to respond. Slowly, deliberately he managed a few words before the fog rolled in again. Mute, head hurting, he saw them stare, willing him to make another sound. Increasingly less time passed before they started chatting to each other. If only this cloud fogging his head would go. If only they would go.
“Leave.” Stunned, they obeyed his order
Catching snatches of conversation as they left, Horry smiled.
Not All Houses Are Homes by Roger Shipp
My book bag –Old Navy, camouflage – was in the back: four sets of clothes, sneakers, and a set of tightly, rubber-band bound envelopes. My life: assorted letters, and two photographs, from the last three years. That was everything, except for my Riptunes MP3. I was listening to Bastille: Things We Lost for the umpteenth time.
We were watching for a large white SUV driven by a balding, older man and his grey-haired wife.
My ninth home: a new family- this one much older. I was ready: eyes- dry, dulled, unexpressive. New starts aren’t what they’re cracked-up to be.
Off the Map by Pat Cummings
Between one step and the next, disaster. I reach for the map clipped to my pack, and — nothing! Was it an hour since last I checked? Along the open corridor between the trees, no map lay behind me.
Was I still going north-west? My compass needle swings wildly, doesn’t settle. Circuiting tree-trunks is another chance to loose my way. In the damp, moss marks tree-trunks all the way around, rain clouds obscure the sun’s direction. And I’ve seen that Amanita muscaria, bright against the duff, before!
Desperate, I tramp on. I must find the marked trail before dark.
Bed Springs by Pete Fanning
I wake before dawn and see myself. Part of the pack, going along with the commercials, chewing the gum and smiling. How did I get here? In this house and in this bed with this woman who thinks I’m this….guy.
Over on my side I draw a breath, my lungs expand. The ceiling looms. It needs paint. I’m a painter—a gum-chewing painter. Each breath brings it closer. The trap has sprung, the bed springs are uncoiling…slowly.
The morning sun is vibrant. The ceiling has retreated. We make coffee and kiss, plan our weekend.
We need to buy paint.
New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome!
Love this, Charli. I don’t know how you continue to pull this off so seamlessly. Thank you for your compilations (which are growing rather quickly). 🙂
It’s a joy! I was surprised at how appealing disorientation turned out to be! 🙂
Everything Sarah said… 🙂
Wow! Now that’s a compilation! I’m pleased I came to have a look as I had missed some of these earlier. Great wrangling Buckaroo! (I hope I got that right!)
Yup! You got that right! Great stories!
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