During 2019, as a kind of literary experiment, I plan to publish a new piece of flash fiction during the first week of every month. These pieces are called The White Rabbit Stories.
Here's June's White Rabbit Story:
It has happened before and it will happen again, many times, an endless number of times and in an endless number of variations. It has always happened, and it always will.
This time, it’s in a forest.
This time, she is small and blonde.
This time, it is the same as every other time, apart from a few minor details.
She’s running. Running away from a killer, a man with a big knife who wants to murder her for some vague, or even unspecified reason. It’s a plot point, a narrative device. We’ve seen it all before.
She’s running away.
The masked killer gains on her but not quite enough to catch her, even when she stumbles over a tree root or falls on the hard ground. She always gets back up again. She keeps running. He keeps chasing. An infinite chase, one without end – the characters may change but the chase remains the same.
Leaping over a shallow stream, she twists her ankle. She doesn’t fall; she carries on, limping. The masked killer gains more ground. She can hear him breathing hard. She can feel him, the dry heat of him, not far behind her as she runs.
A dilapidated barn appears up ahead. She hobbles inside, slams the door and moves something heavy – a wardrobe, a bed, a cupboard; it isn’t important – in front of it to keep him out, if only for a length of time specified by the mechanics of the plot.
She’s the Last Girl. The only difference between her and countless others is that she knows what she is: she recognises her role.
All she must do is wait this out. Sit patiently until the cavalry arrives. The cavalry being a man: a police officer or just some passing firm-jawed hero, who will come along and save her. He will be tall and handsome, and he will kill the killer.
Sitting in a corner of the room, knees drawn up to her chest and arms draped around her legs, she closes her eyes and remembers when she was a real person. A young child, playing in the park. A young girl, learning at school and then studying so hard at University. A young woman, getting her first job and trying to make her mark on the world.
Back then, she wasn’t the Last Girl.
Back then, she was a Real Girl. She was a person, not a cipher. Whatever happened to that girl, what strange turn of events occurred so she’d end up here, at this moment?
But there’s no further time for introspection: the masked killer has arrived at the barn door. He’s banging on the door, punching and kicking and using his knife to carve chunks out of the wood. She can hear him singing; it’s a sad song, a childhood verse. Before long, he’ll get inside. She’ll have to fight him until some man arrives.
She knows the rules.
She knows how it always goes.
But rules were meant to be broken.
Calmly, she stands and walks to the centre of the room. She kneels and pries up a loose floorboard – the one she somehow knows will lift if the right amount of pressure is applied at the correct point. She removes the floorboard and reaches down into the narrow crawlspace below. Lifting out the pump-action shotgun, she hefts it and enjoys the weight of it in her hands. She doesn’t know how she knew it would be there. But she knew anyway.
She stands, sliding the gun’s forend back and forth, priming the weapon for action.
The door bursts open and the killer steps inside. He stands in the doorway, knife in hand, waiting for her to scream.
“Not this time,” she says, and pulls the trigger.
The mask explodes into a shredded, bloody rag. The killer drops to the floor twitching for a little while and then going still.
She steps over to him and kicks him with her good foot – the one that isn’t injured. He doesn’t move. She shoots him again, smiling at the bloody mess, and then pumps another round into the chamber. She looks at the splintered doorframe and the black mosaic of the forest beyond, awestruck by its sudden beauty.
This girl doesn’t need anyone to save her.
The darkness outside floods inside, a peaceful, calming river of night.
No more masked killer.
No more Last Girl.
“Not this time,” she says again.
Smiling, she limps back to her original position and sits down on the dirty floor, facing the doorway. Cradling the shotgun in her arms as if it were a baby, she waits patiently for her saviour to arrive.
© Gary McMahon 2019