Written in response to: Write about someone facing their greatest fear.... view prompt


Contemporary Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

3.5 miles. 5 miles. I gotta keep going, keep going, I gotta keep going.


Franklin leapt off the treadmill to dash under the couch. The lightning glared into every corner of the basement room. Franklin had carefully lit only the dim yellow lamp in the corner, letting himself believe that the thunder outside would disappear. But this latest flash brought home that the storm pounding since early evening was not over yet.

He used to tear off the wallpaper, turn in circles in his room and stay awake for hours. Yet he would look back on it the next day and not be able to remember how the time had passed. It would be like a bad nightmare where you could remember the fear but not the action itself. Remember that something was chasing you but not sure what. Remember, remember the pounding rain.

His therapist had recommended exercise as a stress management technique – something to keep his body and mind averted from the havoc outside. So now here he was, trying to run on the treadmill. He needed to up his miles anyway for the upcoming half marathon. He decided not to wear the heart rate monitor, it would only increase his anxiety. Focus on the running. Nothing else matters.

That final smash of thunder was too much, he had jumped off without thinking and found himself under the couch, stuffing balls of cat fluff into the dent in the carpet by the metal foot and sneezing at all the dust. 5-4-3-2-1, breathe in, breathe out, 1-2-3-4-5, breathe again, breathe again, he hummed to himself as he looked for more cat hairs to gather into balls.

Where was Dimple anyway? Was he sleeping inside the cupboard like last time? How did he manage to hide himself into oblivion when the apocalypse was looming? Franklin edged himself from under the couch and opened the cupboard by the door. He moved his dad’s old suits to the side and tiptoed up to look on the top shelf. A battered-up box of Battleship and Memory and a thick layer of dust. No Dimple. He walked over to the washing machine and slowly pulled open the door. “If I were a cat, that’s where I would hide”. He rolled the drum around a few times in case there was a lost feline or a lost sock, but it just whirred painfully and ground to a stubborn halt.

So far Franklin had stayed on the side of the room furthest from the windows. The blinds were half shut, the best he could do. The rope had got stuck in the fiddly latch at the top and the only times he remembered it needed fixing were when he was down here trying to avoid going anywhere near the window. 

The windows were set high up in the wall, and with the angle, the flashes seemed like they were pouring through the gaps like water. On the top right of the large window ledge lay Dimple’s not-so-secret hide-out. It was the cardboard box from the Christmas tree Franklin’s Dad brought home the first winter after Mum disappeared. He’d cut the plastic tree into shreds but for some reason hadn’t touched the box. It was like a sliver of hope that something magical might still exist, hidden in its folds; the sound of her voice or the feeling of her damp hair when she embraced him. His palms were getting sweaty and he realised he was starting to shake. The last time he saw her was the night of the great Montana storm. Dad told him later that she had joined a group of storm Chasers and had never come back. An agonised sound emerged from his depths, a humming and a crying fused into one.

“Dimple! Dimple, where are you? Are you up there?”

He could not see inside the box from down here. It was lodged against the window with part of the blind draping over it on one side while the yellow fluffy blanket stuck out on the other. It was wedged in with a few bricks and Dimple had been using it as his second bed for months now. But with the white noise outside and the intermittent rumbles of thunder, he couldn’t hear anything from within the room. He had no idea if Dimple was hiding inside the box. And then he noticed the window on the left side was ajar, it looked like it had been pushed open. Had Dimple gone outside? Oh no! If Dimple was out there, anything could happen to him. He could be struck by lightning, he could get lost, he could drown in a flash flood.

Dimple! Dimple. Dimple! Franklin shouted his name over and over, tearing at the air then falling to the carpet in desperation. Where are you Dimple? Are you in the box…? His voiced trailed off as he lost the energy to cry.

He fell into temporary shock, stuck in a lethargy of panic that felt endless. Time stood still as his body separated from his mind. He felt himself levitate and walk over to the desk where he gently picked up the office chair and moved it to the wall. It was clunky but sturdy. He stepped gingerly onto it with one foot, holding onto the top chair rail. His body was slight but uneasy, still shaky and unsteady. It wasn’t going to be high enough. He got down again, marched over to the couch and picked up a couple of cushions, then got the huge Webster’s from the desk, placed in on the chair and covered it with the cushions. This time he had to haul himself up holding tightly to the top rail and leaning against the corner wall so as not to lose his balance. He stretched himself up onto his toes and leaned his head as close to the box as he could. He whispered quietly… Dimple? Dimple dum, are you in there? He needed to keep his body against the wall so as not to lose balance, and could only free his left arm with which to reach out to the box. “Are you in there?”. 

He started wobbling and pushed himself further into the corner wall so as not to fall. No sight, no sound of the fluffy white cat with eyes as blue as winter. By now Franklin’s heart was pounding fast. He made a last-ditch attempt to shake the box and then came back down to the floor.

Now, it was time. Fear was on the other side of that window but its fingers reached inside and grasped his neck. They pulled him over to the other wall where the window was open. There was a shelf on that side that he could pull himself up to from the chair. He stretched his arms up and pulled on the window ledge, kicking himself up against the shelf. He reached the window opening and he felt the wind plaster his face. It was dark outside now, the lightning had receded while the rain kept falling in sheets. He took a great big breath, ready to jump out and go and look for Dimple, ready but not ready, not thinking what this meant, he lifted himself up with his biceps about to wing his leg over the ledge when he heard it. “Miaow”. There, on the ledge, walking over from the Christmas tree box, was Dimple. Placing his paws delicately one step at a time until he reached Franklin and nuzzled his soft grey and white face into his neck. Franklin melted. He plunged down from the ledge, slumped back down on the floor, and Dimple dropped into his arms. Man and cat, huddled in the corner, protecting each other with a love more innocent and soft than any other.

July 14, 2023 08:35

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Marty B
20:41 Jul 16, 2023

I really loved the last paragraph, it was a vivid imagery of man trying to overcome his fear to save his best friend. I liked this line- 'Fear was on the other side of that window but its fingers reached inside and grasped his neck.'


S Fevre
21:05 Aug 18, 2023

Thanks Marty B for taking the time to read and comment on the story, appreciate your feedback!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.