This week’s challenge from ChuckWendig is the Secret door challenge.
I saw this on tumblr and it is so neat. Google maps without the boring bits. Click on it and go somewhere. First time I got the centre of the coliseum in Rome, and then a bar in Ireland. I even got underwater on the Great Barrier Reef. My friend got the South Pole.
So I click it for today’s challenge and get a birch plantation in France. Hmmm. Wander around a little and start writing.
I have no title, I am hopeless at making up titles. [Image from googlemaps.] I forgot to take a screen shot of the place I landed... silly me.
She closed her eyes; too terrified to look. The thought of seeing images flash by her made her nauseous.
When she opened them, she was standing in a forest of tall slender trees with grey bark. Birches? The air was foggy and it looked cool, almost cold. The leafless trees formed perfect straight lines. A plantation not a forest.
She turned and looked around. A road. She walked. The survival suit was troublesome but it allowed her to breathe and she didn’t get cold. It had a disguise capability. She could copy and mimic the persona of someone she met. Problem was she hadn’t met anyone, yet. It also had a translator and a communicator, but other than that, she was on her own. Her first assignment.
Ah, a sealed road with signs of life; a refuse bin and a streetlight. It was then she found the warning sign. Le-conseil-general de tarn-Garonne. French, the translator said.
She found a tiny, narrow bridge but couldn’t work out how to make the suit cross it and resigned herself to more walking. Perhaps the suit was trying to tell her not to go that way? She walked, dodging the water-filled potholes in the hedge-lined road. The crops became more agricultural. Hops, the suit said, for beer. She saw a traffic sign that had arrows mostly pointed to the left so she went that way. She wondered how much time they had allocated her and if getting lost was a complete defense.
An epic fail, more like, if she couldn’t work out how to navigate.
Perhaps she was supposed to learn the suit capabilities while she was wandering about? Could she jump? Leap? She jumped in place and got the sickening sensation of landing too slowly. Well, that worked, but she wasn’t sure that she liked it.
She passed a couple of larger houses with locked security gates. If it was the correct address, she would know. Another sign. Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave in the French Pyrenees, population 2166.
Nervously, she checked the details for the hundredth time. This was the place.
Now all she needed to do was find her target, Joel Alsace.
Why didn’t they just send her straight here? Save her walking? Surely they could just transport her right into the room with him?
She shouldn’t think about it. He wasn’t a person, he was just a target. She idly wondered what he had done to deserve this. Not that it mattered to her. She wasn’t the judge or jury; just the executioner.
A ping. A reminder that her time was running out. She still hadn’t seen another person to mimic. Maybe she could copy a background? No. That would never work. Someone would be sure to notice if the wallpaper attacked them. The suit ought to have fall back standard people.
“Load standard female image,” she told the suit as she stared at her gloved hand. It became bare, with pale flesh and long, slim fingers. Phew. So that worked.
The sun was rising and noises from the nearby farms told her better than a ping, that she was running out of time. The whole village was caught on the edge of waking.
She stood in front of the old house. The shutters had faded; white paint peeling to expose the wood. They were all closed. A glance confirmed open shutters on other houses. This guy was careful. Did he know she was coming? He should, if he had done something wrong. There was no escape from them.
She walked around the corner and found the entrance. Her hand pushed against the door and it opened. Did the suit pick the lock? Or did he open it for her?
She trod silently through the house.
He was waiting for her in the main room. It was dark with all the shutters still closed but she saw him easily with her suit-enhanced vision. He stood; straight and tall with his hand resting on the back of a plain wooden chair.
“So it’s today?” he asked.
She didn’t know what to say, so she said nothing. She should have just eliminated him immediately, but she didn’t do that, either.
And she didn’t know why.
He moved suddenly; flipped the chair up in one hand and pushed it against her until she hit the wall behind her. Held at chair’s length she panicked and forgot that she had weapons. Her arms were pinioned under the chair rungs.
He leant his weight against the chair and reached up and flicked her visor open.
She almost panicked; thinking she wouldn’t be able to breathe, but her lungs took a great gulp of the house air. It tasted of old books and dried leaves with a hint of wood smoke from the open fire.
“Christ! You’re so young!” he said.
“How did you know what to do?” she asked before the obvious thought hit her. “You used to do this!” she accused.
“Yes.” He waved at her. “Standard female.”
“You knew I was coming.”
“Not you, particularly, but someone. They always choose just before dawn.”
He hadn’t failed at this, like her. “You were good at it.”
He nodded. He looked amused.
“I’m an epic fail,” she said.
“I was very good.”
“So why do they want you dead?”
“They don’t say.”
“No. Too good?”
She still hadn’t killed him and more importantly, he hadn’t killed her. The only weapon he had was a chair.
“You can’t go back,” he said.
“They know where I am.”
“Guess we’re moving then.”
He studied her. “You aren’t going to kill me.”
He dropped the chair and held out his hand. “Joel.”
She took it. “Marianne.”
“Suit off,” he ordered. “I’ll destroy it.”
He passed her a blanket.
She huddled in an armchair and watched it burn. She hoped he was good; both their lives depended on it, now. But she was determined to learn more.
And to live.
© AM Gray 2013