The flicker

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt

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Fiction Mystery Thriller

A light flickered above the crowd and the room went silent. Many kept their heads down, while others started to pray. There were murmurs spreading across the room, but few people spoke. No one knew what was going on or about to happen next. A couple of kids in the vast space started to cry and their parents tried to calm them down, but as the level of anxiety increased, more kids began to whimper. Only one person in the room knew what was going on. As the people became more anxious, the room began to fill with cries and banter. The light began to flicker but only for a split second, and a gasp filled the space and then everything went quiet. A young girl in the crowd got separated from her family. She tried to call out for them, but when she tried to speak, nothing came out. She tapped the person next to her on the shoulder, but they did not move, it was like everyone was frozen in time. She pushed through the crowd looking for her family, but instead found another kid. Every grown-up that she touched stayed frozen in time. It was hard to see in the pitch darkness, but she could feel breathing bodies surrounding her. Someone tapped her on the shoulder, and she heard a small voice. When she turned around, she found a small boy. He was nine or ten years old. He looked like he had been crying. She took his hand and then continued moving through the crowd looking for something, someone, anything moving. On the opposite side of the room, a toddler was crawling around looking for its mouse. The toddler felt hands reach down and pick them up. They were looking at a teenage sized kid. The teenager looked familiar to the toddler. The teenager had two small boys holding hands and kept them close. The toddler tried to cry out but could not. Everyone was silent. A noise came from above. Everyone heard it, but only the teenagers looked up to see where it came from. To the teenager with the two boys and a toddler it sounded like it came from up, but to the children on the other side of the room it sounded like it was coming from directly below. A voice came from above, but it did not make any sense. All the children in the room looked up to see the light flickering, the light seemed to move across the room as if it were floating. The children in the room followed the floating orb of light across the room, it seemed to go on forever. The girl and boy stumbled into what felt like a person-shaped stone. Two high pitched screams arose from the crowd, they belonged to the girl and the boy. The stone figure stood above them. It sounded like the stone was groaning, the two tried to weave through the crowd, but they were stuck. They could not move. The teenager had managed to find a side of the vast space. It felt like a wall with a cave shaped room carved into it. There was a bean bag chair in the center of the cave, with pillows and blankets surrounding it. The teenager motioned for the boys to sit in the center of the bean bag, then they sat the toddler down next to the boys. The teenager grabbed a couple of blankets and pillows to make the kids feel comfortable. The teenager moved out of the cave and back into the crowd. They had to find the others and bring them to the cave before they got stuck in the crowd. Amid the crowd, a baby cried. It was still being held by its mother, who was frozen in time. She had been looking at her baby with a calming look on her face before the first flicker of light. The teenager heard the cry and began sifting through the crowd in search of the baby. As the baby continued to cry in desperation, the teenager felt like it was being led in a maze of circles and paths that did not make any sense. The teenager was beginning to get their sight back which helped a little to decipher between dirt and people frozen in time. The girl and boy were still stuck in front of the groaning stone, and they began to become frightened. The boy tried to move, but with each attempt to take a step his energy drained twice as fast. The girl used some of the strength that she had left to tap the boy on the shoulder to get his attention, and sign to him that he needed to stop moving so he would be frozen in place like the others. The teenager saw a stone figure in front of them and stopped. They inspected the stone and realized it was a hologram. The boy saw a live hand sticking through the stone figure and fell backwards in fear. The girl curiously reached out to touch the stone then quickly pulled it back when she realized that her hand went through the stone. The girl reached her hand out once again and felt something alive. The teenager was on the other side of the stone figure, they stuck their hands through the stone hologram and signed who they were and that it was okay. They asked if they could walk and if the boy was okay. The girl reached her hands through the hologram and signed that they were okay but stuck, with little energy to try to move. The teenager stepped forward into the center of the hologram and the hologram disappeared. They signed for the girl to take a step. The girl took a step, and then another, until she was also standing in the spot where the hologram was. The teenager signed for the girl to stay put. They realized that if someone were standing where the hologram was, they would be able to move. The teenager then slowly and cautiously moved over to where the boy was laying and scooped him up. The teenager was wearing a loose sweater that they put the boy in and attached to them. When the boy had been secured, they slowly stepped back into the hologram and held onto the girl's hand. The baby was still crying, and even though the cry was echoing in space, they could tell they were getting closer. After what felt like hours of wandering in search of the cry, the teenager finally spotted a flash of movement that looked like it could be an infant. They walked closer and closer, soon enough they were standing in front of the mother frozen in time holding her baby. The boy had regained conciseness and signed to ask where they were. The teenager helped him back on the ground and signed to say that they were trying to gather all the children and figure it out together. The boy helped hold the girl's hand as the teenager pulled the baby from the mother frozen in time. Once the teenager had a hold of the baby, they secured the baby in the sweater and wrapped it around themselves. The boy noticed a cloth diaper bag over the mother’s shoulder and removed it. Inside was a box of formula, a bottle of water, a stuffy mouse, and a binky with a small monkey blanket attached. The boy reached into the bag and pulled out the binky. He put the binky end into the crying baby’s mouth and the baby immediately stopped crying. The teenager took ahold of the boy’s hand, and they headed back in the direction of the cave. The maze of people frozen in time seemed to have doubled, and it was getting harder and harder to find their way around. The baby started to cry again. The teenager tried to calm it down, but nothing seemed to work. The boy pulled a water bottle and the box of formula out of the diaper bag. He opened the lid, took the scooper, and filled it halfway, then dumped the formula into the water bottle. Some of the powder landed on the floor. It glowed. The boy put the cap back on and shook the bottle until all the formula was mixed in. He reopened the bottle when it was the consistency of milk, attached the nipple, and gave it to the baby. It worked. The baby happily suckled on the bottle. Within thirty minutes, they had reached the side of the room. The baby was fast asleep, but they still walked along the side with precaution. The amount of people frozen felt like it doubled, again, and it felt like the room had shrunk. The two boys were getting wrestles in the cave and did not want to share the bean bag with the toddler anymore. The older of the two boys moved off the bean bag and made a nest of pillows and blankets directly next to the bean bag. The younger one picked the toddler up and gently placed him in the nest. The teenager, the boy, the girl, and the baby had reached what felt like halfway around the side of the wall. The baby was sound asleep clutching onto the monkey blanket. The girl was getting hungry. They could not tell how long they were in the room, but it felt like days. The teenager could tell that they were getting closer. After a few minutes, they reached the cave. The two boys looked so happy to see the teenager, and the oldest one made another nest for the baby. The girl found a corner in the cave and curled up. The boy set the diaper bag next to the baby’s nest. He then found a spot close to the girl and made a nest that was just to his liking. The teenager slowly and carefully lowered the baby down and detached the sweater, so as not to wake the baby. Once they were all settled in, a see-through wall arose, closing them in. They all stared. On the other side, the people frozen in time, came to life as if nothing had happened.  

June 05, 2022 00:34

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1 comment

Arthur Duckworth
09:49 Jun 16, 2022

Very surreal!


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