We’re almost at the conclusion of The Kinter House. This post is the second to last. I think I see how it’s going to end, but the prompts may yet dictate a sudden change. We’ll have to see.
Speaking of the prompt, it was particularly hard to adapt this installment to one this week. This piece of flash fiction marks one of the most liberal interpretations I’ve made of a prompt. Metaphorically, I’ve fulfilled it, for what that’s worth, but you have to squint and tilt your head to the left to see it.
Still, I feel it’s a nice addition to the series. I’m happy with how it turned out.
The prompt, supplied by Flash Fiction Friday, is this:
Prompt: Use the picture above as your inspiration. [The picture is the interior of a large cave.] This is the view as you and your guide close your eyes for the night. When you wake up however, you’re alone. Your guide’s gear is there, but he is nowhere to be found. You hear a sound that sends a chill down your spine. Is there someone, or something, down there with you? What do you do now? And, what happened to your guide?
Word Count: 1,500
If you aren’t familiar with the series, this story may not make much sense. I encourage you to read the other installments, first. Click here to get to them, and be sure to start at the bottom and read them in the order they were posted.
in the dark
When I was a kid, my parents took me and my sister on a short vacation to Carlsbad to see the caverns. The Carlsbad Caverns are a wonder to behold. They are, in a word, huge. We hiked in from the surface. The world faded from warm, summer air and dry heat to the cool, musty smells of the caves. Rock formations hung above and rose from the ground all around us. It felt alien, that place, and magical. I was captivated by the other-worldliness of it.
When we arrived at the bottom we took one of the guided tours. About half way through the tour, the guide instructed our group to sit and be still. He explained that he was going to turn off all the lights, leaving the cave in its natural state of total darkness. He asked that we not take pictures or even talk, but just look and listen.
When the lights went out, we were lost in an utter void. I remember holding my hand before my face and seeing nothing. Absolutely nothing. When you’re a kid, you think of any dimly lit room as “dark”, but this was true darkness. There was no light at all. It was the most dark place I’ve ever been.
Until the day I woke in Mr. Kinter’s basement.
The ear-cutting had concluded and he proceeded, from the sounds of it, to flay someone’s fingers and then cut off the entire hand. I heard him light the torch, presumably a hand-held blow torch. I could smell the gas its blue flame produced. He cauterized the wound. He announced this before he began, but I would have known what he was doing without his commentary. I could smell the burning flesh. I’d never smelled charred skin before and, sickeningly, I recognized the scent immediately anyway. It wasn’t foul smelling as much as it was unnerving. It was knowing, I think, what the smell represented that turned my stomach more than the actual scent.
I heard him invite someone named Jessica to “kiss” the burn victim with the flame. She sounded gleeful.
Then a collision of sounds happened in fast succession. The hiss of more skin under the flame, the sounds of scuffling, her screamed apology, the metal canister of the torch hitting the concrete of the basement floor, a male voice crying out in pain and, finally, a muffled pummel, like someone hitting a pillow. Hard.
Shortly thereafter, there was a voice in my ear. It was female and young.
“You can’t see, can you?”
I mumbled into the ball gag. She unlatched it and my jaws were free. It was the most wonderful ache I’ve ever felt, opening and closing my mouth to make sure it still worked. I spit, tasting blood in the spittle, and answered her. “No, he blinded me. Some drug or something.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “He’s down and hurt and his sister looks like she’s knocked out. We don’t have much time, though. We have to get outta here.”
As she spoke, I could feel her small fingers furiously working on the knots that bound my hands. When my arms were free, she moved to the front of the chair and set to work on my feet.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Carrie Wilson. I live down the block from you, Mr. Baker.”
The image of a young girl came to mind. A tom boy who’s friends were mostly male. She played little league and ran with the guys, but there was a spark of something beautiful in her face, even at age twelve. I remember thinking, when I met her, this one is going to be a heartbreaker. I hoped she still would be.
I pumped my hands, opening and closing my fists to get the blood flowing again. When my legs were free, I flexed them, as well. I was afraid to stand. I knew all of my limbs had been asleep. I could very well topple right over, falling onto God knows what.
“Stay here a sec,” she said. I heard her scurry away and return seconds later. “Got a knife.”
Good, I thought. Stab the fucker. She was only a kid, for God’s sake, but I wanted to urge her to kill nonetheless. However, getting out was more important than getting even, so instead I just said, “You’ll have to lead me.”
“Kevin, get up! We’re going!”
There was sobbing to my left. It had been such a constant sound that I must of tuned it out, but the crier, presumably Kevin, mumbled something in response and she gave him a stern, “Now!”
She took my hand and I stood. The world spun. If I could have seen, I’m certain I would have experienced vertigo. Bile rose in the back of my throat and my head was immediately dizzy. I would like to claim that I felt firm resolve in that moment. That I had taken stock of my life and that I was ready to fight to keep alive, blind or not. That adrenaline kicked in and I could have torn through walls to escape, if necessary. But the truth is, I questioned if I could take even one step.
I feared I was dead already.
She pulled my arm and I stepped forward. Right foot. The world tumbled and I sucked in air. Left foot. The world tilted in the opposite direction like the entire basement was a huge teeter totter. Right foot. Left foot. Right. Left.
“Come on, Kevin,” she urged again. “Let’s get out of here!”
“Leaving…so soon?” The voice was Kinter’s. It was in front of us, blocking our way. He sounded labored. His breathing was ragged and his voice marked with pain.
“I have a knife!” Carrie announced.
Kinter laughed. “As do I, girl.”
Shit. It sounded like the challenge was energizing him. His voice grew stronger, his will set.
Carrie’s small hand slipped from mine. I wanted to hold it, to hold her back. What could a girl do against that monster? But my palm was sweaty, as was hers, and her fingers slid right out of my grip.
Kinter laughed. “The cub wants to play!” he announced with elation. “Very well. Come on, little one. Let’s see how spirited you truly are!”
Carrie made a sound from deep in her throat. A feral growl. She sounded like a wild animal and I remembered, once again, the look I’d seen in her eyes. She was a tigress, this one, and the smallest sliver of hope leapt within me.
“Get him,” I said.
She screamed like a seasoned she-warrior and charged forward.