KAG-Con 2021 – Flash-Fiction Challenge

So from today through the eighteenth, Kingston Area Gamers are holding a virtual comic-con style event with contests, hosted game events, and more called KAG-Con 2021. One such event is a flash-fiction challenge that Sol Prima Miniatures sponsored a small cash prize for.

The writing challenge must follow these rules:

  • Be between 50 and 1200 words in length.
  • No erotica and if it includes triggering material, include a trigger warning.
  • Must respond to the image prompts in some way.
  • Must have a plot and not just be a character sketch.
  • Must be submitted by April 18th at midnight.

So, because I submitted the prize for the challenge, I decided to not officially enter it, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to write a quick story.

The prompt image comes from some dice that were rolled showing what I perceive to be a ghostly figure or some kind of clone. A cabin in the woods or some kind of snow globe, and an unhappy person with their mouth sealed. You might see the images differently and be able to use them in a different way for your story.

Here’s my attempt at writing a story using that prompt image. I hope enjoy it and decide to participate or if nothing else, check out The KAG-Con schedule and see if there’s something you’d enjoy participating in.

Time for Strength

I had never even heard of Harcourt before, but the voicemail was so convincing that I had to find out what it meant. The winding roads felt like they continued on forever, with forests and lakes lining both sides interspersed less and less often by a farmer’s field.

“Signal lost.” My phone said, right in the middle of the chorus of my favourite Three Days Grace song.

I glanced down at my phone and my connection was gone. Why was I doing this? Anyone could have left that message. But they knew the code word from my childhood. A code that my mom and I came up with so I’d know if a stranger was safe to go with. If they didn’t have the code word, then I wasn’t to go with them. There weren’t many people in the world that knew that code.

I kept driving, hoping that my phone would find another cell tower, but after a further hour, I began to feel concerned. Thankfully, just as I was about to pull over, a sign ahead let me know that I was still on the right path with Harcourt only a few more kilometers away. 

Slowing down as I neared my turn, I saw a small dirt road between some trees. It seemed right to me, so I turned and immediately hit a deep puddle that bounced me around so violently that I hit my head on the ceiling of the car. Thankfully, after less than a minute of rough, nearly off-road driving, I saw it: the cabin in the woods near Elephant Lake. I checked my phone again, but there still was no signal. I couldn’t even replay the message that I had been left. 

As I stepped out of my car, I saw him. It was me, an older me, standing just off to the side of the gravel path that led to the cabin, wearing jeans, a grey t-shirt, sunglasses, and a smile.

“Hello, Malcolm,” he said. “You must have wondered if it was true when you got my voicemail, right?” 

I felt my stomach flip, I didn’t know if I was supposed to be nervous or excited. For a moment I considered that it must be a prank or a joke, but who would be mean enough to have me drive over three and a half hours from home for a joke? “Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m you from what might be the future, or a possible future. I have never been certain about that.” He paused for a moment and tilted his head. “You know that, right?”

I thought back to the voicemail which had simply said, “Hey Malcolm, it’s Malcolm. You need to come to the first cabin on the left. Muskie Lane, Harcourt. To know I’m telling the truth, the code is twenty-two. Come as soon as you can.” 

So many questions flooded my mind. “How are you here?”

He waved his arm, prompting me to follow him before he turned and walked towards the cabin. 

The cabin looked old and unloved. Broken windows covered over by plywood, a stair missing from the front porch, weeds growing from the roof, and a rusted axe embedded in a log next to a rotting pile of wood.

As I stepped inside, I sat down on a dusty couch near the door. My future self sat in a chair facing me. The cabin smelled musty, but thankfully there was a window open bringing in fresh lakeside air. 

“I’d offer you a drink, but I didn’t really have time to get any.” He said before chuckling to himself. “I am sure you have a ton of questions, but I can’t really answer any of them. If I deviate from my memory of this experience, I could destroy the universe.” He paused for a moment, a large grin on his face. “Well, maybe, possibly. I’m not sure about that either.” 

My mouth gaped open and my brow furrowed. “Then why are you here?” 

I was happy to see that his hair was almost entirely white as I had always wondered if I’d go white or bald and how I’d look. The lines around his eyes and mouth were deep set into his skin and he had a reasonable tan, something I rarely ever had as a computer geek. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in any better of a shape than I, and his shirt was taught around his midsection. 

He leaned forward in his chair. “Well, what I said to me, and what I’m going to say to you is the same thing you’ll eventually have to say to yourself.” He laughed again. “Your life, if you keep working hard and trying your best, will work out in a great way! Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. You are on an amazing path. Cut yourself some slack!” He smiled for a moment before returning to a more neutral face. “I know that’s not a huge comfort right now, but there are going to be some more difficult times and you’ll want to give up, but this moment will ring in your mind and you’ll find the strength to get here.”

A flash of light filled the room, and a man, likely around the same age as me now stood next to my older self. “As you know, it’s time to go,” he said looking at the older me.

“Where did he come from? When are you from? What difficult times are coming?” I couldn’t help myself, I kept rattling off questions as fast as I could. I started to feel angry. How could I travel back in time and not give my younger self a hint or a clue to help me live a better life?

The two men disappeared. I sat alone in the cabin. I don’t know how long I was there, but as the sun started to set, the shadows from the trees made the space feel very uninviting. As I turned to leave, I saw a piece of paper taped to the door. I grabbed it and looked it over. “I guess my penmanship only gets worse,” I said aloud to noone as I tried to decipher what was written on it. 

The letter said, “Of course I left you a helping hand, but I can only do for you what was done for me and what you’ll need to do for yourself someday. This cabin and the seven hundred acres of land on it are yours. Make it better, bring your family here. Get away from technology and the Internet sometimes, and make wonderful memories because that’s what matters most. Also, all of your debts are paid. Enjoy! Malcolm circa 2061.”

I laughed. I laughed so loud that I saw a flock of birds fly from the nearby trees in response. It all felt so surreal, so unreal. I kept laughing until my chest hurt, until my face hurt. 

As I drove home, I waited for my cellular data connection to reconnect and as soon as it did, I pulled the car over and logged into my bank account to see that my debt was indeed paid off.

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