So I finally figured out the time change so I could participate in this new challenge with NYC. Good thing too, because this contest is Flash Fiction, something I love to work with. I am attaching my submission for Round 1 of the competition. This is how it works. There are four rounds, each with a genre, a setting and an object. Each must appear in the story, and you are awarded points. The word count is 1,000. I was in group 27 and had 48 hours to write my story. My prompts were Action/Adventure, an Underwater Cave and a Dumbell. Here’s the result.
(Synopsis: Kyle and Ali are honeymooning in Maui and decide to take a diving trip through the coral reefs. But while the beginning of the dive is idyllic, it quickly becomes a terrifying experience.)
“Can you believe this?” Kyle stood beside Ali and waved his arm around the cave. She pulled the regulator out of her mouth and let it fall to her side. How could he be so calm after what had just happened.
“You do realize we just saw a shark, right Kyle?”
“Babe, it’s ok. It’ll be gone when we head back. Ask Devon.” he said, pointing to the tall, deeply tanned, blonde surfer dude that was their guide for the day. Devon scratched his head as a frown briefly crossed his lips, then he straightened up and spoke to the group of four.
“Ok, I know that was a bit freaky.” he said with a smile not quiet reaching his eyes.
“Freaky? Really? It’s a little more than that, it followed us in here!” said Manny from Florida, standing with his arm around his wife Sally. They were both about 60 years old and pale as could be. Ali worried they might have heart attacks but Devon tried to calm them by downplaying the incident.
“Look, it will lose interest and leave before we get back into the water, I promise. They have super short attention spans. Why don’t we take a few minutes, look around, catch your breath?” Devon checked his watch, “It took a little longer than I wanted, so we’ll have to be quicker on the way back. No panic just gotta watch the air right?” He began walking amongst them, tapping at the face of the regulator’s meters and making sure their tanks were fastened properly.
The dark coral of the cave was covered in dripping seaweed as Ali carefully picked her way around, looking at the sea urchins clinging to the sides of the rocks in the shallow water, trying to calm down. But it was useless and she sat on the dark sand, trying to practice her mindful breathing. After a minute she gave up; she’d never been so terrified in her life! One moment they were swimming, surrounded by neon yellow and blue fish, glowing in the light. The highlight had been the huge turtles lazily gliding through the water, blocking out the sun, casting shadows over her body. One bumped into the head of Manny, pushing him away. The whole group had laughed, sending fat oxygen bubbles up to the surface of the water but while they were laughing, a large shark started circling them. Devon motioned they dive down, leading them through an underwater tunnel and under the arch of a sea cave. Then, he’d helped each of them up onto its shore where they watched the shark thrash behind them, then slip slowly back underwater.
Now, Ali could see Manny and Sally standing off to the side, looking at the ground. She walked over and stood behind them,
“Did you find something interesting?” she asked, looking over Sally’s shoulder. Manny bent over and tugged on something shiny, then stood up. In his hand was a metal dumbbell.
“How the hell do you think this got down here?” he asked, shaking his head and laughing.
“You never know what you’ll find at the bottom of the ocean but that takes the cake. Anyone need to pump up before we get going?” Devon shouted.
Ali could feel everyone relax a little at Devon’s joke until a splash near the entrance of the cave silenced them again. It was Ruth and her group who joined them on the beach and Ali began to sweat as the cave became crowded and humid.
“Hey Ruth,” Devon said, “you guys ok? That was quiet the brush.”
Ruth cocked her head and looked at Devon. She was small, deeply tanned, and muscular in a capable way. Ali had noticed her checking over the diving equipment at the start of the day and had been mesmerized by her white, shoulder length hair. Devon had informed them that Ruth was the best diver in Hawaii. Now, she could see Ruth had the greenest eyes she’d ever seen; she reminded Ali of the mermaids she used to read about as a child.
“We didn’t see him” she said “Maybe we’ll sit here with you guys, give him plenty of time to move on.” Devon nodded and the two of them retreated to a corner. Ali hoped it wasn’t a strategy session about the shark, she didn’t think her heart could take another encounter.
“Alright, everybody listen up.” Ruth shouted.
She waited as the four couples settled down.
“We’re gonna head back to the main beach.” Everyone began to murmur and she lifted her hands toward them, “Okay, okay, I know. You’re nervous. Just follow each other, stay close and breath real slow. Remember, we have to pass through that tunnel before we hit the open sea. Once we’re through, head straight up as fast as you can. Like Devon said before, it took a little longer for his group to get here and some of you are low on air.”
Again, everyone started talking but Ruth raised her voice.
“It’s gonna be fine, I promise. Stay close, keep calm, breath real slow, and head straight up when you’re out of the tunnel. Ok? Now let’s go.”
As Ali entered the tunnel, she kept her focus on the group and Kyle beside her but the more she concentrated on keeping calm, the more she felt fear bubbling up from her stomach. Her breathing was too shallow and quick as the panic attack slammed home, catching her off guard. Her mind kept screaming “Slow breathing, slow breathing, slow…” but the blood was rushing into her ears and her eyes felt full, as if she were standing on her head. As her vision tunneled her body went limp and she no longer felt fear. The open water caressed her and her vision narrowed further. Suddenly, a mermaid with silvery hair floated into her vision and she once again gazed into the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. Then the sea went black.