Archive for November 17th, 2022


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Twenty-Six

Steve took a breath, and then another breath. It was dark, but then his eyes were closed. He was lying down, which seemed reasonable, but it didn’t feel like a hospital bed, really, and there wasn’t the pain (or for that matter the complete unconsciousness) that he’d expected.

“Well,” said Colin’s voice next to him, and he opened his eyes and sat up.

He was lying on a narrow and rather lumpy bed in a dim unfamiliar room. The air smelled of dampness and decay.

In another narrow bed on the other side of the room, just a few feet away, sat Colin, nattily dressed as ever. Looking down at himself, Steve saw that he was in embarrassingly tartan pajamas.

“Not really what I expected,” he said to Colin, “have you seen Kristen?”

Colin was about to reply, apparently in the negative, when they both heard a sound from somewhere outside the room, as of someone moving uncertainly about.

“That could be her — Kristen!” Steve called.

“Did you have to –“

“What afraid it might be tigers?”

“Or just about anything else at this point, yes.”

“Guys?” came Kristen’s voice, and she appeared at the dim doorway of the dim room, looking somewhat dusty.

“Here we all are!” said Colin brightly.

“Where is here, though?” Kristen asked, coming into the room and sitting on the edge of Steve’s bed, “and nice PJs.”

Kristen herself was in what appeared to be a long and long-sleeved dress with a leather vest over it.

“Don’t blame me,” Steve said, “I just woke up like this.”

“Hm,” Kristen said, “me too. Peculiar that the portal took us here. We should be back in the real.”

“Who’s to say we aren’t?” Colin asked, “They could have brought our bodies here, dressed us like this for some reason–“

“I don’t, like, have a steel bar in my head,” Steve noted.

“Good point, good point.”

“Could… a lot of time have passed, say?”

“I wouldn’t think so,” Kristen mused, “we’d be older and probably our muscles would be somewhat atrophied, and… hard to say.”

“So we’re still in some crazy virtuality.”

Kristen shrugged.

“No sense looking for a perfect story,” Colin put in, swinging his legs over and standing, going to the shuttered window where what little light there was came in, “We’re here now, so this is the real.”

When he pushed at the half-ajar shutter over the window, it, and the other shutter on that window, fell outward with a puff of decay, and disappeared downward; a moment later there was a muffled crash from below.

“The owners are not going to be pleased.”

“Does this place feel… owned to you?”

“Not particularly, no.”

“We appear to be on the second floor of… something,” Colin said, cautiously looking out on what appeared to be deep woods under a sunless sky.

“I woke up in a bed in a room down a few steps from this one,” Kristen said,”but not a whole storey. Off of a landing, maybe.”

“Might want to be careful walking around,” Steve said gingerly, “if any of these floorboards are as rotted as those window things…”

“This is ridiculous,” Kristen said, looking at the floor suspiciously, “this can’t be the real world, and it’s no virtuality of mine, and the portal that I made shouldn’t have been able to–“

“If that happened at all,” Colin broke in, “after all, that’s just a memory; it’s in the past, and the past is just an illusion.”

“Oh, lordy,” Steve said, “you’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“It’s at least interesting, you have to admit. Challenging some of our assumptions about the past and future, the logical universe, and all of that. All that we can be sure of is this present instant.”

“I’m not very sure of this present instant, myself,” Steve grumbled.

“C’mon,” Kristen said, “I feel like we should get out of here. Look around and like that.”

The three looked around the small bedroom once more, now brighter with the window open, or missing, but it contained nothing but the bed and a few old pieces of wood on the floor.

A short flight of steps beyond the door led to a landing, from which another door led to the room that Kristen said she had awakened in, which had another basically identical bed, and was smaller and dimmer, but otherwise the same.

“Depressing place.”

“So far.”

From the landing, a longer flight of stairs led downward into a wider darker place.

“Slowly, slowly…”

The stairs were creaky and two were cracked, but they held as the three made their way downward.

“Guh, cobwebs.”

“Yeah, not surprising.”

“And there’s like vines around the balu — um — the railing here.”

“It’s probably really rotted, don’t lean on it.”

“Dark down here.”

“Our eyes will get used to it.”

“No one has a flashlight?”



They stood at the foot of the stairs, Steve still picking the cobwebs out of his hair and pajamas, getting used to the dark space. A wide hall led forward, with a few vaguely-visible doors to either side. Light came from above, perhaps a hole in the ceiling Steve thought, barely filtering down through dust and cobwebs and who knew what above them.

“Main door dead ahead?”

“Probably. Walk carefully–“

“The floor, yeah, I know… seems well-preserved so far.”

The laths and joists of the floor creaked loudly as they walked toward what looked like a half-open or half-broken doorway at the other end of the hall. At one point a bird called loudly from a side room, and there was the sound of wings receding as it fled through some unseen gap in the walls or ceiling.

“This is delightfully creepy,” Colin whispered.

“Not all that delightful,” Kristen replied.

“Hey, at least you aren’t in pajamas.”

“Sorry, we should have looked for better clothes for you.”

“Nah, there was nothing up there. And I don’t think I want to wear anything that’s been decaying in this place for a hundred years.”

Colin chuckled at this. “Nearly there,” he said softly.

They reached the door without incident, Colin first, with Kristen behind him, and Steve in pajamas in the rear.

“Door’s falling off,” Colin observed.


It hadn’t fallen off enough to get out easily through, and no one wanted to squeeze between the rotted wood of the door and the rotted wood of the frame. After a moment, Steve braced one foot against the edge of the door and pushed, and it collapsed outward, with a much larger puff of dust and decay.

All three sputtered and coughed and tried not to breathe until the cloud had dissipated somewhat.

Then they stepped carefully through the door, across a small and significantly more rotted porch, and down onto leafy earth.

“Well,” Kristen said, “here we are.”

Fling Twenty-Seven