Odd Prompts

Odd Prompts: Return to Wonderland

Trying to come up with some inspiration for this week’s prompt response, I revived a novella I started writing last year. Wonderland is probably the most piecemeal story I’ve ever written, and I say that as the author of The Case of the Perambulating Hatrack. 

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Shelby got a little fuzzy, about then. Later she was told she’d been a docile little lamb, and had politely heaved her guts only when outside, on the bush by the side door. She vaguely recalled more cruel persons shining bright lights at her, and then it had gotten all dark and she stopped having anything she could really call a memory. 

She woke up in a dark room, with her stomach telling her her throat’d been cut. She lay there staring up at the ceiling, correctly identifying the pressed board tiles as hospital, and when she rolled over, the railings that trapped her in bed with the overfull bladder taunting her as hospital bed. She had a moment of forgetting how the damn things worked before finally unhooking the system and lowering it. 

Standing was an effort of will. Her head thrummed like a beaten drum, and her stomach decided it wasn’t hungry after all and pitched a fit. Shelby closed her eyes experimentally to see if shutting out some stimulus would help, then reluctantly opened them. She wasn’t at home. Navigating to the toilet without eyes wasn’t going to work. There was faint light from equipment, enough to help her reach her goal without turning on a light. 

That taken care of, she stepped back out into the room and opted not to lie on the bed. She wasn’t tired. She just felt like hell. Moving slowly to reduce the irritation to the angry monkey who’d taken up residence in her skull and started shrieking and flinging poo if she forgot and took a real step, Shelby navigated to the small and uncomfortable couch, lowering herself onto it gingerly. She sat upright, then gave up and lowered her head into her hands. 

“Hey.” The voice wasn’t an unfamiliar one. “Why are you out of bed? Thought you were in a coma or something.” 

Shelby didn’t move much, only enough to arrange her hand position. He rasped a gravely chuckle as she gave him the bird. 

“So that was a bad one, eh.” He lowered himself onto the couch beside her. As short as it was, she could feel the cool outside air he’d brought with him, then the seep of warmth from his body next to hers. He smelled of cigarettes and leather and the cherry coughdrops he favored. 

“Why are you here, Dad?” She finally managed to get out. 

“‘Cause I’m next o’kin?” He leaned back, and put an arm around behind her. 

“I wasn’t. Am not. Dying.” She sighed and leaned into him. “I may barf on you.” 

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” His voice rumbled in her ear where it was pressed against the waxed canvas of his jacket. “You’re bigger now, though.” 

“I almost got us killed, Dad.” She rode the wave of nausea that came out of nowhere, and kept it from spilling over. 

“Neither of you are dead yet.” He had tucked his arm around her. “So, what happened?” 

“I had a moment.” She had her eyes closed again. Even the faint light from the machinery was too much. “I was driving, and I had this flash of inspiration and that’s when they hit us. Because I wasn’t focused. Or I’d have been able to…” 

“Nah. They were gunning for you, kid. If you’d seen them coming? You’d what, have driven up on the sidewalk?” 

“No sidewalk right there.” She was seeing the scene in her mind’s eyes. The crash, the jolt of the car spinning, the glass everywhere… Johns flopping in his seat and then the steam gushing from the radiator where they’d come to rest against a telephone pole. Shelby had managed to get her seatbelt undone and had gone to the closest house for help, staggering up onto the poor lady’s porch. The lady had come out, cell phone in hand, already frantically talking to the dispatcher at 911, so Shelby had gone back to Johns. 

They had hit his side of the car. She couldn’t get the door open. There were other people gathering, and Shelby had felt the whole world go swimmy… She told her father most of this, in the dark quiet room. 

“What was the idea?” He asked after a long moment of silence. 

“The proof was in the taser.” She raised her head, cautious, waiting for the sick feeling to come back. “That’s what I said to him, just as they hit us.” 

***

I was prompted this week by Fiona Grey with “The Proof was in the taser.” I prompted Becky Jones with “It’s the combination that confuses.” 

You can read all the responses over at More Odds Than Ends, and even take part yourself in the weekly prompt challenges.