This is the newest Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge. This is the culmination of a four-week challenge campaign to give a massive prompt. Three weeks ago, we were asked to submit a sentence, to be used as the last line of a story. My submission was, of course, one of the most famous first lines in SFF history: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.” Then, two weeks ago, he asked for another sentence, this one to be used as a first line. My suggestion was, “Mother always told me to watch out for the badgers.” Finally, last week, he asked us for a title. I entered, “The Limits of Our Imperfection.”
You can see where this is going, I’m sure.
So this week, we get a challenge called A Title and Two Lines, in which Chuck listed ten choices from each week’s entries (my title made the cut!), and our task is to choose one from each list, and go for it, using the selected title, first line, and last line. I have done so, and I hope it turned out well. Please to enjoy, and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
(At some point, I might write a story using my own prompts, just to see what I come up with. Might be fun. We’ll see.)
THE EMPIRE OF ALL-KNOWING EYES
The pale pink rabbit, some child’s lost toy, blinked at him from the kitchen chair. He stood, rooted to the spot. “Even here,” he sighed, “they See.” He walked over and picked up the rabbit. He held it up and looked into the glittering black pebbles that had been sewn to the animal’s face. They blinked again. “Even here, they Know.”
Sighing again, he tossed the rabbit aside as he picked through the wreckage of the home. No telling when it had been abandoned, but this part of the city had been lost while the center still held, so it had been at least…at least… He sighed again. He didn’t know how long it had been. He couldn’t remember.
He stopped and looked around. A box of long-forgotten breakfast cereal sat on the counter, a multicolored animal mascot on the front. Its eyes looked out at him and Saw him. He knocked it off the counter and left the kitchen, heading down a short hallway. He was in the living room now. There were pictures on the walls, photographs of people he didn’t recognize, that he had never known. Their eyes followed him as he moved through the room. More waited on the walls of the staircase heading upstairs.
Now thoroughly shaken, he abandoned his exploration of the house and left. He had been hoping to find food or blankets to help him survive the coming winter. Instead he had been too afraid to continue up the stairs. It had only taken him two room to discover a truth that unnerved him: they Knew. They Saw. Even here.
He knew now that it was only a matter of time before they found him. Cameras attached to streetlights tracked his every move. He knew that darkness would provide no cover. They would See him wherever he went. He began to jog, panic building. He had to get away. Somehow.
He tried ducking into other houses, but the eyes in the photographs on every wall held and pursued him. Even the covers of magazines on the coffee tables looked out with grim accusation. I SEE YOU, they seemed to say. I KNOW YOU.
Frantic now, he emerged from the last house on the block at a full sprint. He crossed the postage-stamp lawn in less than ten strides and ran down the middle of the street. Less than a block down the road a drone came out from between two houses and began following him. Sunlight glinted off the lens of the camera sticking out of its carapace. Screaming, red-faced, panting, he increased his speed.
The drone kept pace with him, content to observe. He continued to run until he reached the part of the city where people still lived. The first building he came to was an elementary school. He swerved off the road and ran into the schoolyard, somehow hoping to elude the watcher in the sky.
Two more drones came up and over the school building as he dodged and wove through the swings and slides of the school’s playground, and then another pair came around the far corner ahead of him. Seeing them, he screamed again. He never saw the jump rope, tossed aside by a careless child, coiled in the dust. His foot touched it and slid out from beneath him and he pitched forward. His head struck the edge of a see-saw. He slid face-first into the hard-packed dirt and he did not move again.
Drones continued to gather above him as a teacher led her class out of the school to have recess on the playground. Seeing the commotion, she stopped them, all of them standing uncertainly in the doorway, unsure of what was happening. One of the drones was larger than the others, and bright red. It drifted towards them and extended an appendage. It beckoned to the teacher and her students. COME FORWARD.
The other drones—smaller and blue-grey—extended their own appendages and took hold of the fallen man’s limbs. Two grasped each arm, and three each leg. He was much larger than they were, but there were more than enough of them to lift him. The red drone hovered over the class. Its appendage touched its camera, then pointed towards them, then it rotated 90 degrees in the air and pointed towards where the other drones held the man. SEE. KNOW.
The teacher stayed in the doorway, looking up. The children formed a circle, lifted their heads, and watched as the body disappeared into the sky.