As per my previous posts, I am involved in the Flash Fiction Challenge with NYC Midnight. I received my email letting me know that my submission has been received, and therefore is fine to be posted. 🙂 This time around, I was in group 35, and our prompts were Genre: Suspense // Location: A School Cafeteria // Object: Lighter Fluid. The challenge is 48 hours to write a 1000-word story based on the prompts.
Title: The Patriots
Synopsis: When Claire’s school is held hostage in the cafeteria, she’s left crouching and shaking in the closet. Can she stay safe or will she be forced out of hiding?
EDIT: the copy and paste of this story didn’t keep the original formatting from Word, so apologies any that previously read it. Fixing the issue now.
Claire landed on the ground as she fell in the custodial room. The room smelled of smoke from the cigarette she had just enjoyed. Her friend had pushed her down and slammed the door shut.
At first she thought it was because someone was coming, but then the sounds of gunfire echoed outside.
Terrified, Claire pushed herself behind the sink and hid.
Screams bellowed all around, and above it all, men yelled, “Get inside!”
Guns punctuated their demands.
Claire could hear the sounds of running, and screaming reverberate across the cafeteria outside. Ten long minutes passed.
Heath tapped his fingers across the stock of his semi-automatic rifle as he cradled it across his arms. His men pointed some 10 rifles at the group of near 500 students and faculty. The noise of the gunfire would have already been reported to police by now, so he did not have much time. With a grunt, he began, “We are not terrorists!”
His audience cried and stifled back sobs. A few screams were released, but when the guns came up, they went silent.
“We are patriots!” Heath cried.
His head turned to the left and faced the cell phone recording his speech.
“Today, we take back our country!” he screamed.
Pointing to the wall of people with tears and terror spread across their faces, he continued, “We have the children of many Congressmen here, and that of the General of the US Army. All of them potential future leaders. All of them disposable.”
Heath paused, allowing time for the screams that he was certain he would get. He was not disappointed.
“Our demands are simple. That fucking law you’re trying to pass to take away our guns? …You have exactly one hour to vote No. If not, everyone dies.”
Claire wiped away her tears and looked around the room. The darkened closet didn’t have much to help her stay hidden. Across the custodial cart was a large dark towel that might help.
Claire stared at the towel. Did she dare move? She glanced from behind the sink to the small gap under the door. Every now and then a shadow crossed, but none stopped. Now was her only chance.
Moving into a crawl, she reached for the towel.
A shadow fell upon the room, and the doorknob started to turn.
Claire flinched but grabbed the towel and pushed back to the sink. The door swung open, as the beach towel covered her completely. She was thankful that even at 17 she remained so small. The footsteps drew closer. From the edge of the towel, she could see a man with a rifle in his hands walking to the sink. He turned his back to her as he looked around the room.
Claire held her breath, but she was certain the sound of her heartbeat would give away her location. The sound echoed in her ears as if it were bouncing off the side of the sink frame.
The man turned around. His head cocked to the side as he inspected the towel. Relaxing his rifle, his arm reached towards her.
“Owen!” a whisper came through the door.
The man turned with a start and aimed his rifle at the door before realizing his error. “What?” he whispered back.
“I need a hand in the kitchen.”
Owen sighed and turned to leave.
“Did you find anything here?” the other man asked.
“Nah, man. Only a towel we could use for cleanup.”
Claire breathed a small sigh of relief and wiped the sweat from her brow once the door closed. Pulling out her phone, she selected Daddy on her contact list.
“Claire, are you okay?” a male voice asked.
“There, there’s men here with guns!” she whispered.
“I know. I’m already here with my team. Where the hell are you?” her father asked.
“In the janitor’s closet… cafeteria,” she muttered.
“Good girl. You stay right there.”
Claire stifled a sob.
“Just try and stay calm. We’ll be there in no time,” he said.
“Okay,” she mumbled.
“What do you have in the room with you?”
“A damp towel,” she said. “A trashcan on a cart, a mop and bucket. Cleaning stuff.”
“Do you have your lighter?”
“Uh… yeah…” she answered. “I might have some fluid too.”
“Are there any other towels in the room?”
“No, but the mop looks dry.”
“Perfect. Throw the lighter fluid in the trashcan. Then light up the mop and chuck it inside the trash. Open the door and push the cart out. Okay?”
Heath sat down in front of his hostages with a phone in one hand and the other resting on the rifle across his lap.
As it rang, several of the students moved without notice. Heath answered the phone, but panic broke out as one of the teens could be seen amongst the group having a seizure. Shots were fired to calm the group, but this made others scream while one girl vomited on the floor close to Heath.
Claire placed the mop into the trash can. The tiny flame would erupt soon. Gunfire went off again. The screams outside echoed her own fear and she fell back beside the sink, as tears streamed down her face.
A shadow cast over the room, but Claire was frozen.
The door burst open with a crash, but still she sat motionless.
Owen didn’t even hesitate when he saw her. He grabbed her arm and jerked her up.
Just as he pushed her out, the trashcan exploded and he fell on top of her, fire catching on his clothes.
She lay on the ground, too stunned to move. A blur of motion happened all around, but she saw none of it. She felt Owen roll off her shrieking about fire. The sprinklers turned on, and screams resounded from everywhere.
As Claire started to lose consciousness, she could see the outline of black SWAT units invading from the kitchen. They were saved. Dad had kept his promise.