[Fiction] The Incident at Darnley Creek (opening)


Note: This is the opening for a much longer story. I’ve been working on it a lot lately, which is why you haven’t seen too much short fiction from me in the past week and a bit! I’ll be back with more though ^_^ Just thought I’d share what I’ve been up to.

From the Oregon state archives
Classified report issued to the President’s Office by Department 14 on (date withheld)
Declassified 28th Jan, 2016

The whole affair began on a dreary, stultifying Monday afternoon, in the suburb of Darnley Creek. The heat, turgid and sweltering, was enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Do not presume this to be an exaggeration or touch of the prosaic by the author of this report: eyewitness accounts, collected from residents of Darnley Creek in the aftermath of the incident, uniformly agree on the unmistakable sizzling sound that came from Mrs. Winterbottom’s fallen groceries; groceries which, upon later examination of the receipt, were found to contain a brand of eggs known for the poor and shoddily-made containers they came in. These are only facts; the conclusions drawn in this report are backed by rigorous evidence and have been subjected to the scrutiny of the finest minds in America.

It was an afternoon that paralyzed. On the streets, cars smoked gently as the fluid in their radiators boiled; children stood motionless upon the neat, trimmed lawns of suburbia, glistening with sweat and water from fitfully spurting sprinklers; inside, stunned inhabitants lay prone and moist upon paisley sofas, glazed eyes staring, unblinking, at flickering commercials on their television sets. That afternoon, air conditioners had sprung fatal leaks in every house along the block, and the repairman was nowhere to be seen, despite recordings taken from residents’ telephones containing his cheerful promise to be by no later than twelve’o’clock. In the sticky air, thoughts slowed down to a trickle, and then to a crawl.

It was, as one passer-by put it, “the sultriest damn afternoon that ever slid down under my collar.”

It is curious, then, that upon this afternoon on which nothing was happening but a long, wet, squelching descent into evening, that Eliza Bourbon-Smith, fourteen, should be putting the finishing touches on her school project. Nobody but her can say why she should choose an afternoon so hostile to progress for completing a project not due for several weeks hence, but — as she is unavailable for comment — we can only assume that she was either eager to demonstrate her extraordinary diligence to her peers and educators, or to finish a project she held an intense personal interest in.

But as Eliza Bourbon-Smith was not a good student, judging by report cards filled with phrases such as ‘drifting attention’, ‘never hands in work’, and ‘in future, could be less weird’, we feel inclined towards the latter case. This assertion is strengthened by corresponding testimony from her legal guardians, Mrs. Bourbon and Mrs. Smith.

“Eliza was a quiet soul,” said Mrs. Bourbon. “’Why, I’d never have thought so sweet a child was capable of such mischief. Imagine! Eliza, doing something like that! Though, she could sometimes be a bit obsessive, the poor dear.”

“Eliza always was a nasty little squirt,” said Mrs. Smith.

The exact nature of the device that little Eliza was working on that afternoon when all else had ground to a sticky halt is likewise not known, but a few pieces of evidence point towards a startling truth. First, there is the long list of overdue books on file at the Darnley Creek public library, pertaining to realms of science that have long been relegated to science fiction, borrowed under the initials E.B-S. on Eliza’s card. Second, there are the blueprints and schematics, found scattered around Eliza’s room, filled with drawings and notes in her neat, spidery hand. Third, finally, and perhaps most tellingly, there are the chilling accounts of what occurred on the Monday in question. What follows are the events of that afternoon reconstructed from dozens of eyewitness reports, submitted by the survivors of what has since become known to this department as the Darnley Creek Incident.

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