Short Story Challenge Week 2: Apples Cannot Scream

It’s logical enough that week 2 would follow week 1, right? Onwards with my short story challenge, with a little tale called “Apples Cannot Scream”.

It’s been a heck of a week for me to get my creativity flowing for a wide variety of reasons. Still, if I set myself a challenge, I do like to try to keep to it.

For those of you joining me for the first time, I’m trying to create a short story (no defined length) once a week for the next calendar year.

Week One: Before The War

It follows up a successful challenge of the same type I engaged in a few years back. That led to my collection of short stories, Fifty Two, which is still on sale today for any popular eBook format you’d care to name:

Buy Fifty Two through Amazon for your Kindle e-reader here.

Buy Fifty Two through Apple for your iPad or iOS devices/Macs here.

Buy Fifty Two through Smashwords for any other e-reader format here.

So if you enjoy the story, you know where to get more, right? Also, if you do enjoy it, let me know — while I do enjoy the creative fiction writing process and it does help inform my more analytical writing work as I go, a little positive feedback never hurts either. On with the show.

Apples Cannot Scream


I’m awake.

I can tell I’m awake, because there’s something coarse rubbing against my cheek. It’s rough and it’s cold, and as I slowly raise an eyelid…

Oh, no. Definitely not.

Eyes remaining shut for now, because that light is just way, way too bright.

My cheek is starting to ache from whatever the roughness is. Nearly as much as my head aches, but not quite.

OK, body. Time to open at least one of those eyes. Left eye?

Let’s give it a try… no… there’s something wrong.

Feels… gluey, as though there’s something stuck over my eyes stopping it opening. What the hell is going on?

Alright, then the right eye it’s going to be. Time to brave the light and figure something out.

Ah.

Well now.

That would explain it. It’s bright, and my cheek hurts because it’s resting against the base of a wet concrete gutter.

It’s starting to come back to me, just as the world spins in my head.

I’m going to try rolling over onto my back. Slowly now… there we go.

Somehow, the sun has gotten brighter, just because I rolled off my side. How is that even possible?

What happened to me? Why am I lying in a gutter, and why does my head hurt?

Let me think… hey brain, do you reckon you could do that… please?

Yeah, I know you’re hurting right now. Everything’s hurting right now, but maybe knowing the why of it might help me sort out what to do next.

Next feels obvious. I’m going to close my eyes, because the sun is super bright right now.

Yeah, that’s better. Stops one sense from pounding, although now I can smell every single part of this gutter… including me.

Somebody’s been sick down here, and I’m not entirely sure it was me.

“Apples Cannot Scream”

What? What does that mean, and why am I thinking it?

OK, I can get through this.

Like Mom used to say when I lost my baseball glove as a kid, where did I last leave it? Only… it in this case is me, and the where is what and… yeah, this train of thought ain’t going nowhere fast.

I remember… Sophie coming home.

Sweet, sexy, excitable Sophie. Gotta tell her how I feel about her.

One of these days, anyway.

She was extra excited and bubbly because… oh, that headache is pounding right through me… no, wait, that’s a car going past on the road. I wonder if I can roll up the gutter onto the sidewalk, just to get away from it.

Here goes…

HNNNNNNNG….

Oh, I think I’m gonna die. Or at least puke…

Yep, puke it was. I’m going to have lie here for a while, but at least I guess I won’t get run over by a car.

Electric scooter, bicycle maybe, but not a car.

Sophie. Think about Sophie.

No, not that way, idiot. Or at least, not that way in public with both eyes closed.

What was she excited about again? Can’t have been her work, ‘cause she hates that place and always tells me how one day she’s going to kick that old guy who owns the place right in the balls, just after resigning. It’s what he deserves, Sophie says.

Oh, that’s right. Sophie was super excited, because some new band was playing in the bar down the street, and she figured we should go check them out.

It was Friday, my work week had also sucked, which is par for the course when all you do all day is stand by roadworks twirling a sign and getting dirty looks from the drivers whose day you’re slowing down…

I guess they’d be giving me a different dirty look right now. Suspect I deserve it, too. Maybe I’ll try the right eye again.

No, still too damned bright, although I think I got a peek of light out of the left one as well. It’s… sticky… and gross…

Oh man, hope I haven’t gone blind. That job sucks, but it’s a job, and I’ve got rent to pay.

Hell… where’s my wallet? Should be in my left pants pocket…. Ah, yeah, there it is, familiar leather shape and all. Ah, some of that pain in my leg are the keys pushing into my thigh. Better shift those around… yeah, that’s better.

I remember… we went down to the bar early to grab a good table and something to eat. I had… chicken wings, I think, and Sophie had a cheeseburger, same as always.

And then the lights dimmed, and the band came on… ah, that’s it.

They were called Apples Cannot Scream.

They might not be able to scream, but if those ladies were Apples, they they sure as hell could belt out a tune.

Something in one of their songs about a rabbit, I think… and a baseball bat? Sophie seemed to find really funny. Although she’s pretty easy to make laugh when she’s had a few.

I must have been pretty drunk too, because I remember wobbling to the bathroom at one point, and nearly collapsing down the stairs as I went.

OK, eyes, time to open and take stock.

I still have my wallet and keys, so nobody mugged me. I stink like a hobo and I ache like a retired Ice hockey goalie… which probably explains why nobody’s stolen anything from me.

Time to sit up.

Woah. The world is spinning, but I can bring it back under control.

All I need to do is focus.

Focus and breathe.

Breathe.

Yeah, breathe. That’s better. Where am I?

I recognise that sign for the pizza place… it’s right outside the apartment, blinking away in the night while I try to sleep.

Yep, I’m on the street where I live. Only, a little more al fresco, as my dad used to say when we went camping.

Never did find out what that meant, but it must be to do with being outdoors, right?

OK, all I need to do is stand up and get inside. Keys are in the pocket, should be a doddle.

Up I go!

I’m wearing… a t-shirt… over my shirt?

What?

Oh. It says “Apples Cannot Scream: 1997 Tour”

That’s right. I bought it… to impress Sophie.

Bit less impressive now. Bit stained.

Why is the world spinning again? Who keeps doing that?

Down I go.

Ow. That pavement is hard stuff.

“Hey, Steve? Steve, are you OK?”

I know that voice. That sweet, bubbly, concerned sounding voice.

Dammit.

I don’t think I wanted Sophie to see me like this.

About the author

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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