Friday, 21 September 2012

The short cut (Part 3)

Anyone wishing to read the first two episodes of this mini-series can find them here:-

The short cut (Part 1)
The short cut (Part 2)


I shoved open the grille at the top of the ladder and clambered out onto tarmac.

The grille slammed shut with a clanging finality that told me it wouldn't open again even before I tried it.

The road looked familiar... but unfamiliar at the same time. It was definitely the road that led home, but there was something wrong about it, something that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

I started jogging up the white line, I just wanted to get home, go to bed, and hope that all this lunacy would be gone when I woke up again.

When I topped the last rise before my house I stopped for a breather, a few yards down the slope there was a sign in the centre of the road...


Just beyond the sign a strange-looking military vehicle was angled across the road and beside it an armed soldier, his back to me. There must be some emergency in progress, a bio-hazard or something, that would possibly explain some of this oddness. I didn't care, it was help, someone to take control and sort this mess out.

I ran towards the trooper, skirting around the sign as I went...

“Hey! .. Hey! .. I need help... Hey!”

At the sound of my voice the soldier spun on his heel to face me, instead of the fresh-faced grunt barely out of his teens that I expected to see, what poked from the uniform collar was a chittering clickering insectoid head...

Fire spewed from the barrel of its assault rifle and as the rounds impacted my world went black.

* * * * *

I woke up next to the CHECKPOINT sign in the road. I rose to my feet and looked down the slope.
The vehicle was still there, the insect soldier too, stood with its back to me just like before.

Walking as quietly as I could, and sliding the tyre iron from my belt, I crept toward it, I was almost there when my foot scuffed gravel.

The creature turned and fired in one smooth motion...

* * * * *

Awakening once more next to the signpost, I began to see a pattern emerging.

It sounded real crazy, but this was like being a character in a video game.

It took me six attempts before I managed to reach the mandible-mouthed asshole without it hearing me, I put every ounce of strength I had into laying that tyre iron into the back of its head, when it crumpled to the floor I laid into it several more times for good measure.

Green slime oozed from its skull and pooled on the tarmac.

The creature was the weirdest thing I have ever seen, a chitinous, but humanoid body with seven-digit clawed hands, and a face like a praying mantis. One ugly bug if ever I saw one.

I searched through the uniform and found two more magazines for the assault rifle, I threw these into my shoulder bag, which strangely didn't seem any fuller or heavier for the extra bulk.

A glance inside the vehicle squashed any ideas I might have of commandeering it, the controls looked so alien I wouldn't even think of trying to drive it.

Shouldering the assault rifle I set off in the direction of my home.

* * * * *

That was what seems now like a lifetime ago.

Many miles, many buildings, and many skirmishes ago.

Since then I've killed countless thousands of these “Buglies” as I've come to think of them.

Occasionally larger ones appear, great eight-legged brutes with massive firepower, sometimes it takes dozens of reincarnations before I get the measure of these things and find the weakness that brings them down.

I've battled and slaughtered my way to LEVEL 7 now, I have no idea how many levels there are, or if I will ever see my old life again.

Yeah, my old life...

My crappy job that I absolutely detest, with the jumped up little Hitler of a supervisor on my case all day.

My shitty home life of lonely TV dinners, and repeat shows, and getting drunk alone just to deaden the pain of it all.

Yeah, my old life.

Y'know what? Screw it, I don't even want to go back.

I click-clacked the slide, chambering a round into the breech of the combat shotgun, my favourite weapon so far. Oh yeah, the RPG and the sniper rifle have their uses, but when it came to close-quarters work this beauty could really spread that green slime across the walls.

I took a pace forward and kicked open the farmhouse door...

From inside, the loudening sounds of clicky-mouthed screeching came from multiple directions.

I ran inside, looking for targets...


The end:

©2012 Stephen. J. Green.


  1. I'm glad he brought up videogames, because I certainly wondered if his horrors weren't digital.

    1. Hi John. Yeah, I think anyone who has played video games would have no trouble connecting with this, but I put the line in anyway just to make sure. :-)

  2. Starting with a humble tyre iron put me in mind of Half-Life.

    1. Peter, I just loved half-life, I played it until I wore the disc out, a totally brilliant game. :-)

  3. Replies
    1. Hiya Lou, thanks darling, I thought you would appreciate this detour into the gaming world. :-)

  4. That is what I call a satisfying finish Steve -- great story :)

    1. Thank you Brinda, I'm happy that it worked for most readers, I wasn't too sure that it would.

  5. I love stories like this: a road that shouldn't be there, a portal to another world, the MC deciding he likes the new one just fine. Great stuff!

    1. Thanks Larry, I wouldn't mind spending a day or two in his new world myself.

  6. Ah life can be but a game! Good story and good ending! I enjoyed it.

    1. Thank you Helen. Shotguns can be such good fun... It's my favourite close-quarters weapon too in most video games. :-)

  7. Hi there Steve -- neat :) You can't beat a bit of bugoid shotgun shenanigans. I liked the idea of our man being stuck in a game and actually enjoying it. That, in itself, was a good twist. And what happens on game end?

    I would say that a few more veiled clues layered into parts one and two would possibly help to tie everything together a bit more, as part three is quite the blind-sider -- though much to enjoy in all parts -- and now I think about it, that feeling of linearity, his change in character, all make sense... But maybe a few stray bugoids, some mysterious clicking, some more one-liner game references etc. so you can see part three in part one a little sooner.

    But, meh, I enjoyed it all. Onwards to level 8 :)


    1. Hi Stephen, I think you are right, it would have been better to have a few more clues in the earlier episodes, maybe a glimpse of something or distant chitterings, so the last part didn't come as such a sudden twist.

      Trouble is, I wrote part 1 as a story in its own right, and was reluctant to change it to suit the later parts, and in my own mind I thought the middle bit worked okay, but in hindsight it could have done with a bit more embellishment.

      But hey ho, it's done now, and the MC is having a whale of a time. :-) ROCK AND ROLL BAYBEEEEE!!!

  8. You've certainly got a very inventive mind!

    1. Icy, thank you for the huge compliment. Inventiveness is such a key element in writing, be it flash fiction, poetry, song lyrics, or novel-length projects.

      I take pleasure from my over-active, (And sometimes slightly odd) imagination, and the (sometimes skewiff) sense of humour that goes with it. Once again, thank you.

  9. Does this game have multiplayer? Might join for a kill or two :)

    I liked how the story ended Steve, it was pretty cool, the surprise at the beginning had me smiling. It all worked well.
    I'd like to think of the previous parts as of some sort of tutorial area of how to move in the game. Or that's just me?

    1. Hi Cindy, that multi-player option would be a real bonus wouldn't it?

      A lot of games do start off in a restricted area that the player has to escape from, and I came to think of all the little changes in part 1 as the programmer adding the final adjustments to the scenery.

  10. Brilliant Steve - have just read all three!!

    1. Hi Laura, and welcome. Thank you for reading, and for the lovely comment. :-)

  11. Brilliant conclusion. My favourite of your longer pieces. Very nicely paced, and I really got to know the character quite well and was happy that he finally found a purpose in life.

    P.S. Where can I find a copy of the game? ;).

    1. Thanks for the very kind comment Craig. :-)

      I've got a copy of Borderlands (1) for the XBox 360, it's not quite the same as his game, but comes pretty close. Heheh!!

  12. Replies
    1. Thanks Richard, with the amount of time I've spent gaming I find it easy to relate to the shoot-em-up theme. :-)