A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest". I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy. But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog. There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel. Here is the start.
“Do you think any of these stands have food in them?” wondered Maxwell.
“Thanks,” Wilton had been too preoccupied to remember that he was hungry. “Now I have the overwhelming need to look.”
Clair stood with her newly acquired mallet and concentrated on their surroundings. She had never been able to prompt visions and premonitions to come to her before, more just letting herself be open and hoping the universe let things drift into her mental awareness. But even if she had never been able to, some of the other White Hat psychics could and she had been experimenting with the concept for a while. Meditation, hypnosis, pot once or twice while in Europe; while she had won a few scratch off tickets it had never paid off in a crunch time before (though considering how many crunch times she had seen and the fact that she was still around, maybe she just wasn't fully aware of how good her gift was.) Regardless of all previous experience being a failure to launch, trying to be psychic seemed one of the best possible uses for her time as Maxwell and Wilton were currently halting the group’s progress through the carnival in search of elephant ears and sugar waffles.
Clair began her inner searching, and after a few minutes of coming up with nothing, she began to physically wander, staring off into space as she took small and slow steps forward and around different booths.
“Eureka!” Wilton exclaimed as he halted tearing through a set of cupboards in a booth he had noted as having a deep fryer.
“What’d you get?” Maxwell bounded out of his particular search pattern and up to the serving window of Wilton’s new-found kitchen.
“The proverbial gold mine of junk food," said Wilton. "Unlike caramel apples they are not vaguely nutritious, and unlike cotton candy they have sustaining substance.”
“Corndogs?” Said Maxwell.
“My god, Max," said Wilton happily, for the first time since the fall into the underworld. "You most certainly do have the deductive skills to be a White Hat. Help me start the fryer.”
Maxwell ran around through the booth’s back entrance and began cranking knobs on the cooker. As it boiled to life he turned to face Wilton, finding the man holding a knife out to him.
“Keep this with you,” Wilton said. “I don’t know why you need knives to make carnival food, but I think it may come in handy.”
“Cool by me.” Max put the thing away in his pocket, hoping he wouldn't accidently cut the hell out of his hand later by accident.
At this point both of men had sort of lost track of the bigger picture, and had in the meantime gained a much smaller, more conquerable, picture in the cooking and devouring of corndogs. Clair, conversely, had become a little too focused on the big picture, and had wandered in a psychic-seeking-the-answer-to-it-all frame of mind out of sight of the other two. She did however wander into the sight of something else.
A shrill and spine-chilling cackle suddenly roused Clair from her not-quite-dreaming and forced her to ready her mallet at the source.
“Shall I tell your fortune, or maybe read you palm. I’ll see your future, and it won’t take long. Madam Zorrena is at your call. Come with a question, anyone at all.”
Clair relaxed slightly, allowing her mallet to lower, but did not let her hostile and frustrated gaze drop from the gypsy woman’s face. Though only a wax torso in a glass case, the attraction remained one of the strangest things Clair had happened across that day, and that list seemed to show no signs of ceasing to grow.
Clair then stepped toward the old (old almost to the point of being an anachronism) device and examined it closer. It had two slots, one for a coin payment, and the other for the card that told the fortune. Clair patted her sides, each pocket in turn, until realizing that her change had gone the way of the repelling gear. She allowed her head to drop, and looked at her toes in hopeless bit of I-thought-maybe-I-had-been-led-to-this-point-by-my-gift-but-that-appears-to-not-be-so moping. Between her toes, sitting flat on the clean hewn stone ground, was a single quarter.
Clair was starting to get a this-must-be-a-'my-gift-lead-me-here'-vibe, and picked up the quarter, allowing her mallet to fall from her grip, flat on the ground between her and the machine. She then dropped the quarter into the slot.
Madam Zorrena’s eyes flashed, her mouth stood agape, she swayed her head from side to side raising it back as if to scream, then lowered it as if in a trance. Lastly the head rose back to its original location, and she disappeared from view the glass of the machine had gone dark. A click followed and a card emerged from the second slot. Clair picked it up to read the words: 'LOOK BEHIND YOU!'