FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: TEN MORE TITLES (ROUND TWO!)
This time the titles were hand-picked based on how interesting they sounded.
I picked one 'Gunslinger Ridge Experiment' and below is the piece of short fiction that goes along with the title.
Target length: ~1500 words
The Gunslinger Ridge Experiment
Kent, sitting at his desk, held his head tight with his hands.
"Let's go, we'll be late," Crystal said.
She put down the tickets on the table, waiting a moment. She heard nothing.
She ran up the stairs of the dormitory up to Kent's floor and knocked on the door. Still no response. She banged on the door. "Kent! KENT!"
She pounded but still nothing in response. Other people on the floor opened the doors to their rooms and looked around. They saw Crystal sitting down on the floor outside Kent's room. Tears flowed down her cheeks. She walked away and went downstairs, picking up the tickets from the entry room table.
Hours later, Crystal came back and knocked at the door, slumping down to the floor to wait for an answer.
The door opened. Kent stuck his head out and peered down.
"Crystal?" he said, "are you ok?"
She looked up, shaking her head side to side.
"Weren't we supposed to go to the show?"
Crystal stood up and looked at Kent. "That was hours ago. I was banging on your door but you wouldn't come out. What the hell happened?"
Kent glanced at his watch. "Shit! It's 4 already! We had to be out of here by 1." Kent's hand went to his head and he rubbed his eyes. "I can't believe it."
Crystal pushed open the door to his room and went in and sat on his dorm bed. Kent sat down on the chair by the desk, turning on the lamp. "What was it a blank out again?"
"I think so," Kent said, scratching his head. "I was sitting here and wrote a note, then it hit me, like a load of bricks."
"Yeah, my head was throbbing. I couldn't think of anything. I just sat here and rubbed my temple. I tried to make it go away. I guess I blanked out."
"Kent that show was important to me, I was supposed to write a report on the play for literature. This is the fifth time this has happened. We've missed movies, dinners and even just study time. I really want to help, but I don't feel like you realize how serious this is."
He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I know. I know. I'll work on it."
Crystal stood up. "You've said that you'll work on it so many times already. I think I've hit my limit," she walked to the door and turned back, "Kent, be well."
She walked out, firmly closing the door behind her.
Kent sat there shaking his head from side to side. Then he bolted up and threw open the door, running down the hall. By the time he came downstairs he just saw Crystal stepping onto the bus in front of his building. The bus drove away.
He walked back inside.
Opening the door he noticed a sign up on the door. The sign read 'Join the Gunslinger Ridge Experiment' and described the times for signing up for a campus-based psychology treatment. The fineprint emphasized that this was an entirely new treatment and was considered radically experimental. He grabbed the sign and ripped it off the door.
Two days later he called Crystal but didn't get through. He left a message. "Crystal I want you back. You'll see I can be my old self. I've signed up for The Gunslinger Ridge Experiment and will be going through with their treatment."
Kent found the offices for the experiment in the basement of Dexter Hall. A young researcher greeted him and brought him into their research room. She asked him basic questions like his name and contact details. Then she stopped and looked Kent.
"Have experienced any type of trauma, especially in childhood."
The researcher held her pen down on her notebook, waiting for a response.
"Yes," said Kent, "I killed my mother."
"Well I think so," Kent said. "I was six years old and we were out in the field. We were target shooting at hay bales. I tried to load my gun, but it went off. She died."
The researcher wrote this down, asking him some more details about the event, but Kent said it was a blank.
"That's ok. Actually it will work very well for The Gunslinger Ridge Experiment. We have developed an extra-sensory device for breaking down walls to blocked memories. Kent, we can go back to that day and see exactly what happened, we'll revisit your exact memory."
"So you're ready."
Kent sat down in chair. It was designed like a dentist chair and he leaned his head back. The researcher explained to him to him to look up at screen positioned above the chair. A light dot bounced from side to side on the screen. She put tight, noise blocking earphones and turned on a white noise sound.
"Just relax and breathe deeply."
She applied a electrode to his arm, and watched a monitor for the reaction to his pulse.
"Now just watch the screen, and let your eyes follow the light," she said, "we're going to be busting through some walls."
After ten minutes, the images on the screen changed, now showing psychedelic patterns of different colors.
Kent spoke, "I'm in 7th grade, I'm at lunch with my friend Alex. He just asked me what happened. 'Alex,' I am saying to him, 'I don't think I did it.' He just looks at me."
"Very good, Kent," said the researcher. "I'm right here with you in the lunchroom."
The patterns on the screens danced and swirled, moving faster.
"Okay Kent, what do you see?"
"I'm at my house. I must be about 6 years old. Haven't been there in years. I'm sitting on my father's lap. The sheriff is there. He asks me what happened. I can feel my father's hands holding me. My father leans down and speaks into my ear. 'Kent, boy, just tell the Sheriff here what happened, tell him how the bullet flew out of your gun.'"
The colors changed from red to blue to orange and then to purple. Kent stared at the screen. The image changed to a vast ocean with clouds flying over. Everything was in a shade of purple. Kent started to shake.
"Take another breath Kent, we're making great progress."
He took in a deep breath. His eyes were vibrating wide open.
"I'm lying down on an old mattress. The hay bales are about 10 feet in front of us. A paper target is taped onto the mattress. My mother turns and looks at me. She smiles. She holds her gun and closes one eye, taking aim at the target. I just hold my gun. My mother pulls her trigger and air cracks. My mother falls down and blood flows."
"Did you pull the trigger on your gun Kent," asked the researcher.
"No no. I am just holding my gun. The wind is blowing. I look up and my father is standing over my mother."
"What is he doing?"
"He's looking down at my mother and he is ... he is holding his rifle. Smoke is coming out of the end of the gun. He puts the gun down on the mattress next to me and reaches out to pick me up. We run in the house and I look back at my mother just lying there on her mattress."
"Where did you go?"
"We went in the house. He is calling on the phone. He yells. 'I need help. My son shot my wife.' He yells some more in the phone."
"Can we keep going Kent?"
He nodded his head.
The researcher pushed some buttons on her keyboard. The seascape on the screen went from calm to waves and clouds flew by. The color shifted from purple to light blue.
"I see my father on the phone. He is yelling. 'This is an emergency! Yes I mean it. I need this policy approved today. I want to make sure my wife is covered. Get back to me with that approval'"
The screen changed to a wide lush forest shaded in red.
"My father is talking to my mother. She just shakes her head. 'Just sign it. We need to think about the kids. What if something happens to us. Taking out another insurance policy is the responsible thing to do.' He pushes the paper in front of her. She looks down and signs the paper."
The researcher pushes a few more buttons on the keyboard. The screen turned back to a bouncing light. Kent closed his eyes and slowly breathed out.
"Kent? Kent can you hear me," she asked.
"Yes," he said, "yes I can hear you." His eyes stayed closed. Tears flowed down his cheeks. "I can hear everything, everything now."
"You can get up now, Kent. The Gunslinger Ridge Experiment is over. You've been a tremendous subject and really helped us test our equipment. Thank you."
He stood up and straightened out his shirt. The researcher handed him a tissue. He walked out.
Kent stood in front of Crystal's door. He knocked softly. She opened and jumped into his arms. "I think I'm ok now. No more migraines."
"What happened? You look, you look so much lighter, like a load has been lifted off you."
"I'll tell you, well sometime. Not now. But yeah, I feel lighter, not to blame anymore."
She took his hand and they walked out toward the campus together.
A few weeks later Crystal was decorating Kent's dorm room. She blew up a balloon and taped it to the wall over his bed. She heard a knock on the door.
"Kent?" she said. "Is that you?"
There was no answer.
She opened the door and so a woman with grey hair standing in front of her. "Oh hello, can I help you?" Crystal asked.
"Yes I'm looking for my son."
"You're son?" Crystal said. "I'm not sure. Maybe one of the other rooms."
"Is this Kent's dorm room?"
"Yes it is but..."
"I'm Kent's mother. We've had a bit of a rocky relationship but Kent is not a well person. He suffers from a lot of delusions and has told people some pretty tall tales about me. What did he tell you, that I died in a car accident? Plenty of sympathy, I suppose."
"No," said Crystal, "he said, he said that he killed you."
The older woman shook her head, and walked into the door room. A balloon popped.