Free Fiction – Stains

Philip HarrisFree FictionLeave a Comment

Not a lot happening on the writing front at the moment, I’ve been distracted by work and the new XCom game, but I did dust off my word processor to create an entry for Odyssey II – a crowdsourced story that’s being created on deviantART.

It’s an interesting project – a nine “chapter” story created one chapter at a time with none other than Clive Barker providing the prologue to get things started. The constraints are pretty tight – there’s less than five days to get each chapter submitted and a 400-ish word limit – but it seemed like a fun way to get the creative juices flowing so I decided to give it a whirl.

My first piece didn’t get picked so I decided that I’d cross-post it here. You’ll need to read the prologue to get the context – it’s on deviantART – but basically our hero, Paul, has ended up with a splash of vomit on his trousers after encountering someone having some sort of fit on the London Underground.

Twenty minutes in the shower, soaping and scrubbing and rinsing, and still Paul’s imagination wouldn’t let go of that damn vomit. He could feel it relentlessly seeping into his flesh, bringing all manner of diseases with it. Within hours he’d be lying on the hotel bed, blood pouring from every orifice as he died from some inexplicable plague.

He’d got his overactive imagination from his mother.

The water sputtered and turned cool. Paul sighed and twisted the tarnished shower handle and the water slowed to a steady drip. His stomach growled as he realised it was gone seven and he hadn’t eaten since his lunch with Annabel.

Annabel. He should call her to see how the interview went.

Paul’s stomach growled again.

He stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel but stopped, his hand hovering just above the rail. The towel was hotel white but there was a grey-green smear, an inch long, running across its top. He thought again of the vomit on his trousers and his appetite disappeared.

He didn’t really know why it bothered him so much. It was small, barely the size of a two pence piece. A quick rinse and it would be gone but the jeans were the only pair of trousers he had with him so he’d have to put them back on to go out for food. Paul shuddered and grabbed another towel, inspecting it for more unwelcome stains before wrapping it around himself and heading into the bedroom.

He’d thrown the jeans onto the narrow bed before his shower and he avoided looking at them as he walked to his suitcase. He grabbed a clean pair of boxers and an old Cure t-shirt Annabel had bought him and slipped them on. As he sat on the bed to put his socks on he could feel the jeans and their vomit staring at his back. At least he couldn’t smell the puke. In fact, the room smelt quite fresh; green fields and flowers, a stark contrast to the grey city that lurked outside the hotel window.

“This is stupid.”

Paul turned, grabbed the jeans and dragged them across the bed, searching out the vomit.

He stopped.

The vomit was gone but in its place there was…a window. It didn’t look like a window, the edges were ragged and it was small, not much bigger than his hand but that was the only way he could describe it.

It was a window and it was open.


From this point, I’d envisaged Paul entering another world filled with wonder and danger. I’m a sucker for alternative/dream worlds that run parallel to the ‘real’ world and it seemed like an interesting direction to take the story – something open ended that people could take and run with in a multitude of directions.

You can read the chapter that was selected, and the prompt for Chapter Two on the deviantART project page.

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