Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE
Monday, April 22, 2019 by BARRY NAPIER

PLEASE WELCOME

BARRY NAPIER TO

SPECIAL EDITION

FLASH FICTION
 

EXCERPT FROM: AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE

Audrey opened her eyes to the sound of her mother screaming. 

She sat up in bed and peered into the darkness of her room. She was confused and still half asleep. Audrey had never heard her mother scream like that. It wasn’t a scream of pain, not a sound that made Audrey think of someone being hurt. No, this scream sounded like her mom was scared.

Then Audrey heard the popping and crackling sounds. She got out of bed and stood motionless, trying to make sense of the noise.

“Mom?” she said, her voice soft and trembling. 

Her confusion evolved into fear and as she grew scared, she wished she’d just stayed in bed. At just nine years old, she was still scared of the dark but would never openly admit such a thing. But this fear got her across her room in just three seconds. When she reached the wall and hit the light switch, she smelled something. It was thick and strong and made her want to cough. 

Her mother screamed from downstairs again. It was worse this time. Audrey could tell that her mother was calling her name. And this time, there was pain in her mother’s voice.

“Mom?” Audrey said again, now breaking into her own weak scream. She was worried and suddenly wanted to cry for reasons she didn’t understand.

Her hand was still on the wall, beside the light switch. When she realized the wall was hot, she pulled her hand back. It wasn’t hot enough to hurt her but it was a growing heat, almost like when her mom boiled water on the stove. She let out a slight cry and ran for the door. 

Audrey had no idea what was wrong, no idea what those increasing popping and crackling noises were. Now, behind those noises, there was a steady whooshing sound that was almost like the wind. 

She reached the door, which her mother always closed halfway after tucking her in. Her dad, away on business as usual, would usually just leave it wide open and Audrey would sometimes hear them talking about money or dad’s next road trip for work. But tonight, her mother had pulled it half closed. 

That’s why Audrey didn’t see the billowing gray smoke until she reached the doorway.

Instantly, her mind went to the simple instructions they had learned in school: Stop. Drop. Roll.

A scream built up in her throat. She was not able to properly voice it before the first flame shot up over the stairwell, as if summoned by Audrey’s presence in her doorway. Her room was upstairs. A thin wooden railing ran the length of the second-floor hallway. Usually, when Audrey looked out of her door, she could see the foyer wall and the beach painting over the front door. But now all Audrey saw was smoke and flames. 

The scream that had been caught in her throat finally came out in the form of a word that she had uttered millions of times in her nine years of life.

“Mommy!”

But she couldn’t hear her mother anymore. This scared her more than anything else and she found herself stepping through the doorway, into the hall.  She fell back against the wall and didn’t understand why it was so hot when all the fire was down there.

She started to cough as the smoke filled her lungs. She stumbled back into her room and that’s when she heard a cracking sound, followed by a small explosion. Flames rolled up in a ball and hit the ceiling where they seemed to roll toward her. 

Audrey screamed and ran into her room. The flames from the ceiling came crawling in right behind her like something mean and alive. As she watched the fire enter, she saw her walls blistering. The paint peeled and bubbled. The edges of her kitten poster were growing dark and crumpling up. 

She screamed again, crying now, and went to the floor. She covered her head, trying her best to stay calm and wait for her mom. Surely her mother would be there any moment to save her.

But she heard her mom screaming again. This time the sound was weaker. It sounded like her mother was further away now. And she was crying.

“Mommy…help, please…”

The smoke started pouring in through her door. Audrey felt it around her, pressing in on her just like the heat from the growing flames over her head. She started to realize just how hard it was to breathe. It almost felt like she was choking every time she sucked in a breath.

The window…

 She stood up and ran to the one window in her room. She looked out over the back yard and saw that it looked like it was glowing in a weird orange light. She unfastened the lock and raised the window. The roof was less than a foot away from the lip of the window and after that, there was a pretty steep drop.

Still, the fresh air from outside made her feel better. She took a deep breath of it and screamed for her mom again. She started to crawl through the window and then saw a thin line of flames creeping up the roof to her right. It looked like it was tracing the edges of the house. Another tongue of fire came blazing along beside it. By the time she had one bare foot out of the window, half of the roof was covered in flames.

She gave a yelp and jumped backward. Her foot caught on the lip of the window and she went falling to the floor. She cried out for her mother again but it was lost in a smoke-choked sob. She curled herself into a ball and slowly let the fear wash over her.

That’s when she heard a man’s voice. 

“Audrey,” the man said. “It’s okay. Just stand up.”

ABOUT AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE

A young girl is nearly burned alive when her house goes down in flames around her. A teenage boy is plucked from a river seconds before he drowns. A father and his infant son are rescued from a car crash they should not have survived.

Despite these events taking place in different states, the survivors tell stories that share one thing in common: a man with no face, but a radiant light where his head should be.

While on assignment to debunk a faith-healing preacher, Jacob Gentry catches wind of these stories. Despite his skepticism, he finds himself fascinated and slightly obsessed. Jacob can’t help but try to tear apart the crazy stories of the phenomenon that online communities are starting to refer to as the Bright Man.

As Jacob travels from site to site of these miraculous rescues, he finds that he is getting closer and closer, catching up to this enigmatic figure. While on the chase, and also still bent on his original story of a fraudulent faith-healer, Jacob discovers that there might be more to the Bright Man stories than the stuff of urban legends—that he may, in fact, be on a journey towards his own revelations regarding life and death, fiction and faith.

LINKS

website:https://barrynapierwriting.com

twitter: @bnapier

current work on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/s?k=barry+napier&i=digital-text&crid=23GOM90MFN60E&sprefix=Barry+Napier%2Caps%2C136&ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_12

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