The flashing red lights on the control panel told him/her something wasn’t quite right… was the prompt for a recent fiction writing contest at Storiad. The entries were to begin with the prompt and to exceed a 500 word count.
As usual- I didn’t fare well.
Over the past few years I have entered more than a handful of writing contests— even ones that I have created —and the result is always the same; I finish a distant last. I have an idea as to why I don’t fare well in contests and those reasons will always plague me. One glowing issue I have is that when I write fiction or memoirs, I cater to no one else but me. I can’t seem to bend what I write to suit the taste of others. Which brings me to the other problem; I often zoom right on over the top and beyond edgy.
Below is the story I submitted for the contest mentioned above. I am hoping that you, my faithful readers, can enlighten me why this tale didn’t place better than the bottom of the trash bin. Please comment and remember that no one takes constructive criticism better than me.
Not that you can see.
The flashing red lights on the control panel told him something wasn’t quite right at The Vault, which meant that all was more than right for Harold, who was the last line of defense for the infamous complex that protected….what? Did he ever know? Does anyone really know? Sure, there was great speculation over the years, but not one guess was ever confirmed.
Harold wondered for the gazillionth time why the corporation hadn’t installed some kind of deadly gas deployment system, as opposed to relying on three guards (the other two he’d never met). But he never wondered that out loud, because he didn’t want to give up his million dollar — tax free —a year paycheck, posh apartment, occasional hooker, or the lucrative ’20 and out’ retirement bonus if no thieves made it to the vault during his twenty year contract with The Vault Inc.
Toggled switches, rotated knobs, and pushed buttons led Harold through a maze of camera views and sensor outputs that pinpointed where the unwelcome guest penetrated the complex. The result caused Harold to sit back and gasp. The water treatment facility— the same point of entry he used for his own intrusion, fifteen years ago.
As the ex-Special Forces soldier, and one time crook, readied for his impending task, he thought about how easy he had it; eight hours a day, seven days a week, for twenty years. Not bad for the pay and the number one responsibility to kill any intruders on sight.
He then set out to prove for the ninth time he was worth every penny.
James glanced one last time at the print out, looked at his monitor and smiled, “Indeed. Fifty million, except I’ll take the intruder.”
Laurence’s bulldog jowls flapped as he peered back at James from behind bifocals, “Are you certain you want Parker? He is a virtual no name with very little history known to our system.”
“Yes, I’ll take him.”
“Then I’ll take your money,” Laurence laughed hard.
“Show time,” James announced suddenly. He then switched his monitor to views offered by cameras Harold had no idea were in place
Harold’s last coherent thought was, ‘Fuck, I shit my pants.’ The one right before that was, ‘I’m dead.’ Both thoughts were preceded by the discovery of the source of a faint panting sound— a cheap cassette recorder duct taped to a wall —the unmistakable feeling of a thin wire being quickly drawn around his neck, and a husky male voice whispering ‘Gotcha’ in his ear.
Parker let the garrote loose and the body hit the floor. Before he could take the first step towards his ultimate goal, he detected a strange odor and knew he was had.
“Uhhhhhhh oooooooohhhhhhhh…” He passed out.
“The money is already being transferred. You are on quite a streak, James.”
James tried to conceal his smug smile,”It is quite amazing— even if I say so myself. And Laurence, I believe it is your turn to welcome the new employee.”