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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Seconds Are Ticking By

Story by Nik Perring (Read author interview) March 15, 2008

So what would you do in my situation? Your mate, Mike, has been showing you the grenade he found amongst his granddad’s belongings. You’re holding it. It’s cold. Interesting. Alien. And you’ve just, by complete mistake, pulled out the pin.

You’re off the school bus, that pulled away five minutes ago, and you’re ten minutes’ walk from home. There are fields on either side of the road. You can’t just toss it and run, can you?

Actually, you can. You have to. You’ve pulled the pin out! You have no idea how long it’ll be before it explodes—if it explodes at all—but you know you can’t have much time. Mike knows that as well. That’s why he’s pelting, up the hill, away from you.

You run to the fence. You toss the grenade as far as you can. You’re happy with the distance you get, pretty much, though you’ll have to make a run for it to be sure you’ll be safe.

You’re relieved. But only for a second. The panic returns. You feel it in your belly, in your legs. Your eyes are wide.

It’s landed near the farmer.

Seconds are ticking by.

You need to get away from it. Away from the danger.

You need to warn the farmer.

This could be murder.

You shout. You scream warnings at him. Scream so loudly your throat burns.

But he’s keeping his back to you. Hasn’t heard.

And seconds are ticking by.

You will try one last time. You have to. But you have to get away too. You don’t want to be responsible for killing or maiming someone, but you need to protect yourself; it’s human nature.

Again you scream.

Still he stays rigid. Deaf to you.

And then: a moment of clarity.

You panic.

You realise.

This is not the farmer.

This is a scarecrow.

And seconds are ticking by.

About the Author

Nik Perring is a writer and workshop leader from northwest England. He is the author of the children’s book I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? as well as many published poems and short stories. He has a website: www.nperring.com and a blog: nikperring.blogspot.com.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty
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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Next Date to Join: December 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.