Ten Second Hero

Crystal still couldn’t believe she was there, she still couldn’t believe she was doing it. Any minute now she was going to meet her favourite actor, she was going to say hello to him, maybe even touch him.

Her stomach felt like it had a flock of butterflies flapping around inside it and she was acutely aware that she was trembling. Her palms may even be sweating. She wiped them down the front of her dress just in case. She had wanted to come to one of these fan conventions forever, but she never seemed to be able to work up the nerve, her anxiety always getting in the way. And yet somehow here she was, waiting in line to take a photo with a guy she’d been in love with for years! What was she even thinking?

The energy in the room was electric, happiness bouncing off the walls. Music was playing, people were laughing, everyone was excited to be there. As Crystal made her way forward in the queue, she suddenly realised she could see him. There he was, standing in front of a back drop, looking more beautiful than she ever thought possible. It was surreal. Like her wildest dream.

A wave of panic gripped her, she was not emotionally prepared for this! Not even a little! What if she couldn’t do it? What if she couldn’t talk? Or worse, what if she fainted? She felt light headed just thinking about it. As she started to sway, a girl behind her grabbed her shoulder.

“Are you okay?” the girl asked. “Do you need to sit down?”

Crystal looked around, concerned faces staring in her direction. Please don’t let this be how it ends, she thought, with her in a pile on the floor, not when she’d come this far. She took in a steadying breath, determined not to humiliate herself. Determined not to miss this chance.

“Just a bit nervous,” she said with a shaky smile.

The girl smiled back understandingly, and then nodded towards the beginning of the line.

Crystal was next.

He turned as she stepped into the photo area, smiling warmly down at her. He was taller than she thought.

“Hi,” he said. “What are we doing today?”

She willed herself to speak, “Ah ah…”

He leant in closer so he could hear her.

“A hhhhhhhuuuu…,” she stumbled, trying her best to get out the word, just one word. She could feel her face starting to burn. “Aaaa..aaaaaa…A HUG?” she blurted so loud he actually started.

“You got it,” he said, gently guiding her into his arms. She bravely rested her head against the warmth of his broad chest.

As Crystal floated from the room, the noise of the fans and the music behind her, all she could hear was her heart singing. She did it. SHE DID IT! And it was the greatest ten seconds of her life.

(c) Amy Hutton

A Lucky Break

The bell rang. Straight away Tom’s tummy started to hurt. He subconsciously rubbed it, making tiny circles with the palm of his hand. As the other kids excitedly filed from the classroom, chatting about their lunchtime plans, Tom stayed seated, gazing out the window, wishing he could be anywhere but there. He hated lunchtime, it made him feel sick, for real.

Biting on a trembling lip he pushed out his chair with a large scrape. Waiting wouldn’t make any difference, it was going to happen no matter what he did. Might as well get it over with. He tried hard not to cry. No wonder everyone picked on him, he thought. Stupid cry-baby. He hugged his bag to his chest as he left the room.

He scuffed down the hall towards the door to the playground. He’d do anything not to go out there, but no one was allowed in the building at lunch, it was school rules, and he didn’t think the nurse would fall for another fake sickness. She got real mad at him last time.

Through the glass door at the end of the hall, Tom saw Garry, smirking. He was twice the size of Tom, probably because he always ate Tom’s lunch. It’s not that Garry beat Tom up, well not usually, he pushed Tom to the ground that one time when Tom tried to stand up to him like his dad told him to. It was worse than being beaten up though, they made fun of him. Garry and his friends called him Tom Thumb, because he was smaller than everyone else. They made chicken noises when Garry took his lunch, which was every single day. Tom hated them.

He looked at the floor and shuffled towards his destiny, sniffing back tears. He didn’t notice the garbage bin carelessly left in the middle of hall until he crashed right into it. He heard laughter as he flew through the air, before everything went black.
Tom lay on the couch his broken ankle propped on a pile of pillows, a PS4 controller in his hand.

“Well, I’ve called the school and told them you’ll be off for at least three weeks. They’ll send round some homework so you don’t fall behind.”

“Thanks mum,” Tom said, as he shot another zombie.

“Now, sweetheart, do you feel like you could eat a little lunch?” His mum pushed the hair gently out of Tom’s eyes.

“Yes please,” Tom said.

It felt like a year since he’d had lunch.

(c) Amy Hutton

The Pledge

Alec stepped carefully onto the creaking porch of the dilapidated house. He flicked on his flashlight, shining it on his face and turning towards the boys on the footpath, laughing at his good joke.

“You’re not getting out of it, Pledge,” one of the boys yelled.

Alec shrugged his shoulders as nonchalantly as possible. Turning back, he pushed open the heavy door, closing it behind him with a loud slam. He walked forward in to the dankness and shone the light around the broken-down room.

To be honest, he wished he’d said no to this stupid challenge. This place had always made his skin crawl. He knew the disappearances were only an urban legend, but fact or fiction, there was no denying his heart was beating pretty loud in his ears right now.

He couldn’t say no though, could he, not if he wanted to make the fraternity, and he really wanted to make the fraternity. He couldn’t believe they even accepted him as a Pledge, so he sure as shit wasn’t blowing it now. He had to do this, like it or not, if he wanted any kind of college existence. Basically, it was go into this creepy-ass house, or continuing being a nobody.

Alec took a steadying breath, he was determined to see this through. He pulled the paper out of his pocket and looked at the clue. Somewhere in here was what he was looking for, whatever that was. Something unexpected, was all they said. The room was all but empty, just a tatty chair and a few boxes strewn in the dust. He shone his torch into the blackness, spiderwebs glistening as the beam passed over them.

When he heard the noise, Alec was sure it was prank. He waited for Halloween decorations to drop from the ceiling, his future brothers to jump out laughing at his expense. He was so caught up in the scenario in his head, he didn’t notice the figure behind him.

As Alec lay strapped to the table, he could just make out another person in the room.

“Very funny, guys,” he said, hoping his shaky voice didn’t betray him.

“Shhhhhhhh,” was all that came back.

Alec felt fear bristle up his spine. “Come on, guys,” he said. “These things are starting to hurt.” He twisted against the ties on his arms and legs

Out of the shadows, a woman slowly stepped forward. Alec blinked hard, as light glinted off the edge of her knife.

“My boys brought me a pretty one this time,” she cooed, smiling sweetly as she gently passed the blade over Alec’s face.

As the shock of the cool metal pierced Alec’s heart, all he could think was, worst fraternity ever.

(c) Amy Hutton

The Eternal Fear

He hid in the shadows, listening. His eyes, used to the gloom, darted furtively back and forth.

After all these years, is this where it ends?

He remembered the first time he was hunted. A father and son. Farmers he thought. He’d taken their daughter, their sister. He’d led her to him, tricked her, seduced her, changed her. They fled together, travelling at night, hiding like animals in caves. But still the hunters came.

He remembered the moment the stake entered her body, the agony he felt in his undead soul. He remembered her guttural scream seconds before her head hit the ground.

She was his first creation. There’d been others since, but her destruction pained him the most.

He’d spent his eternity skulking, feigning humanity, even falling in love, a long time ago. She was young, her cheeks pink like the blossoms of a tree, her skin warm like the kiss of forgotten sunshine. Beautiful. Human. He was first her suitor, then husband, then son, then grandson, when after sixty years she died in his arms. Leathery skin pressed against his permanent youth.

He vowed to live his endless existence causing no more harm. He picked his prey, the bad people, the evil, the dregs that no-one wanted, and no-one missed. He believed this was his debt to pay for all who had died on his lips.

But now the hunters came again, and they were no longer afraid.

As he disappeared up a rickety fire escape, fleeing across rooftops, he wondered if it would be so bad to die? Wasn’t 352 years on this earth enough? The only thing that kept him going his the dread of the unknown. What would become of him when his head was finally separated from his shoulders. Could a vampire not fear death too?

(c) Amy Hutton

The Song

She held her breath as she waited for the music to begin. This song had come to mean so much to her. So much happiness, so much pain. It was love, it was friendship, it was crazy adventures. It was understanding. It was acceptance.

She knew its words like they were her mantra. The lyrics were tattooed on to her skin. She’d sung it at the top of her lungs, screaming out the chorus, arms slung about the shoulders of her besties, as the crowd swayed and chanted around her.

It was no longer just a song, it was an emotion, raw and powerful. It flooded her mind with images and flooded her heart with cherished memories.

As she sat there, holding the remote to her chest, leaning forward on her couch, her eyes fixed on the screen, tears already threatening to run down her cheeks, she whispered, “Here we go.”

The picture came up from black and music flooded her room…

Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more.

(c) Amy Hutton

Ain’t No Lloyd Dobler

He felt like an idiot, standing in the rain, dripping wet in her front yard. He was soaked right through and his perfectly picked out clothes were now clinging to his body in a seriously unflattering way.

He was miserable.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now here he was, drenched, cold, embarrassed, with the distinct possibility of being electrocuted. WHAT. A. MORON.

The music played on above his head, his arms aching from holding them up in the air. It didn’t even look like she was home. He probably should have checked that.

As the water ran into his eyes he shook his head, causing his hair to slap him violently in the face. Okay, that’s it, I’m done, he thought as he noticed how his feet squelched uncomfortably inside his boots.

Suddenly the front door opened.

“What are you doing?” she yelled from the shelter of the house.

“Being romantic,” he yelled back.

“What?”

It dawned on him that the rain was so heavy she couldn’t hear a damn thing. He pulled down the boombox and turned it off, splashing through puddles as he ran to the house.

“I was being romantic,” he said, breathing heavily. He pointed at the boombox and held up a soggy Peter Gabriel CD. “Say Anything!”

“Idiot,” she said.

(c) Amy Hutton

The Pyre

I watch as they place the wood carefully and add a flame, faces lit by the glow, as embers lift gently on the breeze and the smell of pine fills the air.

I feel the warmth on my skin as the fire grows, the two girls on either side of me wail and moan, drowning out the soft crackle of the wood.

The townspeople are on their knees praying to some god they believe allows this act of brutality.

As the flames reach around my body, I feel power swell in my gut. It won’t be long now.

I hear the girls beside me gurgle as they plead. The crackling of the wood now mixed with the sizzling of their skin. The stench rising amongst small sparks.

As I feel the ropes around my body burn and drop away, I slowly step down from my pyre and walk through the flames to stand before the prostrate mass, naked as my creator intended.

Imagine their shock as I lift my arms and call the fire behind me. It engulfs them before they even know what’s happened. Their words to their god becoming screams for mercy. Why do they look so surprised? Did not they think me a witch?

As I reach the forest, I feel the coolness caress my skin where their feeble flames were only moments earlier. I walk slowly towards town. There are more who will pay for tonight’s comedy.

(c) Amy Hutton