Short Stories

No Signal

This was a short story prompt with one of my dear friends for the week of 19/09/2020. We picked a random setting, genre, and object that needed to be included.

  • Setting: The Open Road
  • Object: Phone
  • Genre: Horror

No signal. 

Chuck sighed and continued to trudge down the road. Slipping his mobile phone—still at 83% battery by some miracle—-back into his pocket. Blisters stinging on his heels and toes. His shoes were warm and wet, full of blood. Every muscle in his body felt stretched and weak. With each step his head pulsed in waves of agony. Overhead, the sun beat down mercilessly, a cruel spotlight in a sky so clear and pale it was almost white. 

The crash was far behind him. If he squinted, he could just make out the black smoke through the shimmering haze drifting off the hot tarmac. 

Mirage that was called.

Like an oasis in the desert. The promise of water. If he ran towards it it would evaporate into nothing, only for another pool to shimmer into life in the distance. It surrounded him. Taunted him.

He licked his lip. Dry and chapped. Tasting salt and copper. When he wiped his face, blood smeared on his hand. Was that from his nose? His mouth? Or had it already been there? He couldn’t remember.

How long had he been walking? An hour? Two? Enough for the blisters on his feet to have formed and burst, enough for the blood dripping from the cut on his forehead to dry and begin to flake. 

Another glance over his shoulder. Squinting. The crash was still there. Black smoke streaking up in the still air. He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked again. 

No signal.

He thought about the crash as he slipped the mobile back into his pocket. No other car. No fluffy bunny sitting on the tarmac forcing him to serve. He’d simply lost control of the vehicle. Close to one hundred and eighty kilometres per hour and the wheels had just lost traction. Brakes screeching uselessly as the whole car slipped one way. He flinched, remembering the thud as wheel left tarmac. The disorientation as the car had tilted. Time had slowed to a crawl. The world outside a blur as they’d rolled once, twice, three times, finally settling on the suddenly concave roof.

Chuck didn’t know how he’d pulled himself free.

One minute he’d been inside the car, dangling from the seatbelt that cut deep into his gut, the next he was outside with the blazing sun already burning on his face and smoke stinging his eyes and the choked sound of Liam’s screams ringing in his ears. 

That had stopped at least.

He was almost certain.

Slapping his hands over his ears, he took a few shambling running steps before the vicious spark of pain through his whole body forced him back to a slow crawl. Gasping at the hot, dry air. Stinging tears squeezed from his eyes. Using his fingertip, he hoovered up every drop, sucked them into his parched mouth. Couldn’t waste any liquid. 

“I’m sorry, Liam,” he said in a croaky little voice. Directing the plea to the empty, white sky, to the black streak of smoke behind him, to the (hopefully) silent body of his best friend. “Forgive me…”

He couldn’t dwell on it. No time for that. Had to keep pushing on. Had to get out of here. Just follow the road. One foot in front of the other. He’d find help eventually. 

Knuckling sweat out of his eyes. Sparing the briefest rueful glance up to the sky. When would the sun go down? It seemed to have barely shifted in the hours he’d been walking down this empty stretch of highway. Just like the crash never seemed to get further away. Like the mirage never stopped shimmering just ahead.

Not knowing what else to do, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and squinted down at the somehow perfectly intact screen. Still 83% battery, good. It wasn’t draining as fast as it usually did. His eyes flitted to the top left corner, to the single exclamation mark.

No signal.

Chuck sighed and continued to trudge down the road.

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