Sep 20, 2009 by

Fourth Fiction Challenge 5Round 5 Challenge: Incorporate this image into your next passage of no more than 500 words. You can interpret this challenge as you see fit.

*click on the thumbnail to see a larger image

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It was a Saturday, normally Corey’s day to shop with her girlfriends at the mall, when Delia drove off in search of her daughter.

Just like Corey, who had run away exactly a year ago that day, Delia didn’t tell anyone she was leaving. But unlike her daughter, she called from a gas stop along the way, explaining to a friend she could no longer wait.

For months Delia had nursed the hope that the police and private investigators would discover a lead on Corey’s whereabouts. But despite their words of assurance, she knew the case had fallen to the backburner and would soon fall off that too. She also knew she couldn’t survive another winter staring with wistful desperation at the empty driveway and jumping with quickening pulse at every ringing phone.

As for the farm, it made no difference whether she stayed or went. Her fields lay fallow. The bulk of the corn had remained unharvested last winter, though she’d offered her crop up to anyone in the community. She’d spent countless hours wandering amidst the blackened ears and squawking crows, an image of singular grief. Her cornfield nightmares had now also seeped into her waking life.

Delia had no doubt that the man Corey had been video chatting with that night was responsible. Encryption experts had futilely tried to recover identifying information from her computer’s hard drive but, whoever that man was, he possessed the technical knowledge to scramble any information leading back to him. Corey’s email and online chat accounts had also mysteriously and irretrievably vanished.

The one thing, however, that the hooded man could not delete record of was his face. His expression, especially his eyes, had been permanently seared into Delia’s mind. She occasionally saw him in her nightmares. In the last dream, his face stared up at her mockingly out of the ground, only his eyeballs visible through the dirt. She cried and dove down at him but he had vanished, leaving her there, clawing at the earth alone.

Sketch artists had spent hours with her but the images never came out right. This seemed to her an augury that she was the one who’d have to track him down. The odds were stacked terrifically against her, but if she stayed on the farm, there were no odds at all.

After interviews with local bus drivers, police determined that Corey had traveled to Kutztown. Initially, they mistakenly assumed she was hiding out in town and delayed investigating Kutztown as a potential transit point. Later, three Greyhound bus drivers who’d been shown photos of Corey said they recalled a passenger traveling alone during that period resembling her, although none were sure of it. The destinations were Providence, Burlington, and Raleigh.

Though Corey could just as easily have hitchhiked out of town or taken another bus, Delia intended to start with those three destinations and then work her away around the country if need be. The first stop: Raleigh.

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  1. You’ve taken a really interesting tack with this Utah and brought it back to your original intention of this being a story of a mother and a daughter – and not of the sick bastard you lured the daughter away.

    The stark images of the cornfields and the crows tie nicely with the original images you presented and foreshadowed with hin Round Two.

    And like the others who are powering through this competition – you’ve left us with a taster of what is to come in Round Six.

    I for one want to know where her search leads her and what she uncovers along the way.

  2. Change of viewpoint always creates a different understanding of events and in this case the repositioning has been significant. I’m glad I did not allow my early reaction to the story line to impact on my voting. Now I’m hooked and want to know more.

    The story, while still maintaining its basic line, has now significantly the shifted its point of interest – congratulations and roll on Round 6.

  3. It’s been a busy week for me so I didn’t manage to start writing until late yesterday, which is why I just made the deadline. I’m not so pleased with the end product, but I’m glad it’s being received well!

    Having immunity emboldened me to bring the story back to Delia’s perspective. I took advantage of the opening when it came. Perhaps I’m wrong but I feel that, for better or worse, most readers would rather read about what is going to happen in that cabin than about Delia’s grief. Hopefully I’ll find a way to blend both elements, and without the crutch of immunity!

  4. I like the return of focus onto Delia. In fact, the story could have been made stronger by our not seeing Corey with her ‘abductor,’ hence heightening the mystery here. That said, this is a much stronger piece and the imagery works well to show Delia’s emotional state. Her odyssey to find her daughter begins next week, I am sure you will be here to tell it.

  5. I’m not sure Dan if it will be Delia’s odyssey or Corey’s that will continue next week. I’ll have to see what the challenge is first (thumbs up to Host by the way on opening the challenge up to the public).

    What I can say with certainty is that I’ll be here to tell the story. And I don’t say that out of confidence. I’m say that because my name isn’t on the voting poll!

  6. Auggie

    this is good stuff. you didn’t need immunity to survive this round.

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