Urban Nightmare. It wasn’t a prompt that inspired me, until I combined it with #30DaysWild!
Thank you to the team at Write Edit Publish, for continuing to promote this bimonthly feast of flash fiction. You can see other offerings at their blog post.
Mine is just under 500 words, and as always, gentle comments are welcome.
He lifted his head as he heard the noise. Somewhere beyond the alley, maybe a street away. He sniffed the warm night air. Usual stuff, ordure, overflowing bins, not so much oil or gasoline. Since the virus, not so many cars were about, and none after nightfall, save for cops.
He could still remember the old days, when the nights were full of bustle, lights, chatter, and then just shaded lights, and bustle of a more furtive kind.
Now it was still each night, save for the odd person who decided that night was the time to escape lockdown. It didn’t help him, though. That sort of person was the least of his troubles.
No, it was the gangs who had moved in from the suburbs, they were what he was worried about. Why they thought the city had richer pickings, he couldn’t fathom. There were more yards in the suburbs, more places to hide, more critters to eat. Here the pickings were slimmer, even though the trash cans were as full as ever. That was because the nightly emptyings had stopped.
It all made his youngsters careless. Nothing much to watch for, and meals in almost every alley.
Unless the gangs saw you. Then you could expect trouble.
Where was his eldest?
Should he investigate that noise?
He moved along the alley, stealing through the shadows and slinking low against the wall when there were none.
At the end he looked out, and sniffed. No sign of his son. No more noises either. He considered his options. Leave it, and leave his son to his fate. He could imagine the teasing he’d get in the morning when his son came in, full of himself and his bravery. It would be a tall tale, no doubt.
But then, what if it wasn’t?
He decided on the source he’d heard earlier. He knew the street, an alley collecting the backstage tunnels from three or four theaters. Broadway had been dark for several seasons now; he could hardly remember the last time the crowds had come.
Yes, his son would have ventured there—but what of the gangs? It could be a good place for them, too.
There was a light, flickering, around a corner.
He could smell a person, a hobo probably. Why had he lit a fire?
He could smell blood too, some spilt recently.
Poking his nose around the corner, he took in the scene in one glimpse, and pulled back again. A person, shrouded with layers of shapeless clothing, lit up by a fire, where he had a body propped across it. He held sticks with meat on them into the flames too.
And on the wall behind him, showing russet in the glow of the fire, seven pelts hung, spreadeagled, at various stages of drying.
So that’s where the last gang had got to.
And the last pelt…
He choked and ran.
© J M Pett 2020
And if you haven’t guessed, the inspiration from my #30DaysWild is urban foxes. I have no ideas if they have them in New York, but they do in London.
Here’s one of my cover illustrator Dani English‘s not-so-urban foxes. See her other work on her etsy page.
26 thoughts on “#WEP+IWSG Flash Fiction | Urban Nightmare #30DaysWild”
Not so sure about urban foxes, but we sure have urban coyotes, at least in the western US! Well, I saw foxes in the open space by the coast where we lived just south of SF, so maybe in the real city, too?
Good job with the prompt. Horror, but not too horrible.
Jemima, you did a good job on building up the tension to him finding his son being ready to be lit as firewood.
A great read – I enjoyed the suspense and the pace as his worry built!
Wonderful descriptions, the smells really came through.
we had a recent battle with rabid foxes where I live. Caught one on video that still makes me feel jumpy when walking my dog in the morning.
Excellent work. Sly foxes sometimes aren’t sly enough. They are beautiful creatures though!
Well written and tragic. I deplore fox-hunting, though I know that’s not what this was about per se.
When people build up the areas where the animals live, it ends up driving them closer to human dwellings. I watched it happen over the 18 years when I lived in a bedroom community of Boulder. Now I live out in the country and hope it won’t happen here.
I’m Cie from Naughty Netherworld Press BTW.
Interesting story. I’ve seen foxes in the warehouse area by my husband’s work. And my childhood friend, her step-dad had one as a pet. I never saw them when I lived in Philadelphia. Did see a rat that had to be at least 20 pounds, thought it was a raccoon at first.
A very sad story for the fox. I love how you used the senses in this!
A disturbing story. I feel for that father, whoever he is: a fox, a human, a vampire… Some things are universal.
Oh my God…That was so sad towards the end. You built up the suspense really well.
What a story with such a graphic ending! Good job. We have both foxes and coyotes around here but don’t spot them very often.
Wow Jemima, I’m gld you found the inspiration to write this. I wasn’t sure if it were animal or human as I read through, but the ending did me in! I was expecting something horrific and you gave it. Great response to the prompt.
This has tugged (hard) at my heart strings.
Really liked the build up of the suspense, I was thinking a cat, but the reveal that it was a fox was even more horrific and heart breaking. Brilliant take on the prompt!
The way humans have encroached into animal habitats and disregarded all lives but their own (and many times, not even their own species is exempt!) is the exact reason we are trapped in our current urban nightmare.
I enjoyed reading a story from the POV of the fox. Your descriptions were wonderful, and that ending was heart wrenching. Well done!
Clever. I was wondering if the ‘he’ was truly wild – not even human. Foxes – of course. And I’ve heard the night ‘screams’ in London. Great take on UN.
I had a feeling the MC wasn’t human, because of the sniffing mostly, but I didn’t know it was a fox.
We do have them in my area (Pennsylvania). I lived in NYC for a bit and never saw one, BUT that wasn’t during the pandemic when the traffic reduced and there weren’t as many people on the streets. So it’s possible a fox joined the “bridge and tunnel crowd” and made it onto Manhattan island and got to Broadway. It’s also possible the foxes escaped from one of the zoos.
Anyway, good story! I enjoyed it.
A clever entry an unexpected, foxy POV served up with a side of great descriptions. An original, heart wrenching read! Bravo!
A unexpected POV that creates impressive descriptions that exist far beyond sight. Well done, Jemima.
Another story that sends chills and a non-human protagonist. Well done.
Love the ending! Nice and creepy. We have urban foxes (and coyotes) here in Colorado Springs. Sometimes even bears! But the mountain lions keep well hidden.
Hi Jemima – Urban foxes … yes they have their lives too or loss of … oddly enough I haven’t heard or seen a fox recently – perhaps the Downs have more going on for them when no humans have been that much about. Well done and for incorporating your 30 days Wild into the entry. All the best – Hilary
Great story telling, such a shocking ending.
Chilling Jemima. Suspense halting and great clues on fox.Well done. Wishing you an inspiring summer of writing.
The setting, the atmosphere, the sense of doom, the worry and then – that ending. A well told tale. I’m full of admiration.
Thrilling and sad story. Picturesue narration. Crisis of survival appeared quite vivid.
Comments are closed.