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"Inhale" by Theodora Mitrakos — Our December 2018 Silver Medal Winner

by - Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Theodora MitrakosTheodora Mitrakos is our second place winner from the contest posted in our December, 2018 issue!

What the judges had to say:

"The undercurrent of fear and doubt was very interesting."
"Great twist!"
"Wonderful tension."

Meet Theodora:

Theodora Mitrakos is an author and photographer living in Toronto, Ontario. She writes primarily fantasy and YA, and is heavily influenced by folklore and mythology. She is currently working on her first novel and hopes to pursue a graduate certificate in creative writing in the fall. When not writing, you can find her reading, taking pictures in the studio, or sitting at home with her dog, Stella.

The photo prompt:


 the unedited story:

Inhale

by Theodora Mitrakos


Phoebe stood a couple feet back from the edge of the platform, watching as the third subway train closed its doors and passed her by, feeling the dirty city air ruffle the hair on her head. Hands clenched firmly at her sides, she shuffled her feet before adjusting the strap of her messenger bag.

Inhale. Exhale.
 

She unclenched her hands and toyed with the sleeves of her sweater, her body unnaturally tense. Slowly, she turned her head to look down the subway platform. It was empty at this time of night, everyone was already out celebrating, waiting for the clock to strike twelve. There was an old woman asleep in the only bench on the platform, a newspaper carefully folded on her lap.

Phoebe stepped forward.

It was the final day of her summer semester at night school. The streets were dark, the last bit of golden sunlight fading behind the tall city buildings. Phoebe clutched the straps of her backpack tightly as she walked hurriedly down the sidewalk. She was nearly at the subway, just a few more streets over. There was a clattering sound from the alleyway in front of her.

Phoebe snapped her eyes shut and exhaled shakily. It still haunted her, what she had witnessed that day—that horrible thing. It visited her dreams, bursting in uninvited—that horrible, terrifying, inhuman thing.

Inhale. Exhale.

She could begin to see a dim light from the depths of the subway tunnel, gaining in brightness and closeness with every passing second. For a moment, she thought she saw something in the shadows, something terribly familiar and dreadfully unnatural.

She took another step forward.

It was Christmas day. Months had passed now and yet Phoebe still couldn’t forget what she had seen that day. With its glowing eyes—more eyes than humanly possible—and sinewy limbs, it had made a permanent home in the depths of her mind. She shook her head and snuggled deeper into her blanket, Die Hard on the television in front of her. A clicking sound came from her kitchen, the sound of a lock sliding back into place.

Phoebe toyed with her sweater once more, feeling the smooth cotton slide over her recently scarred hand. She hadn’t taken much with her when she left—she hadn’t had the time. She was lucky enough to have some cash in her messenger bag, but the only other things she had were old economics textbooks and a few highlighters—nothing that mattered anymore.

She could feel a light breeze now, coming from the tunnel next to her. She was half a foot from the edge of the platform. The shadows shifted again, this time in the corner of her eye against the wall a few feet away from her. The lights above her flickered noisily.

Inhale. Exhale.

One more step to the edge.

She hadn’t slept in nearly two days. Situated in a corner booth of a twenty-four hour Tim Horton’s, she clutched her cup of tea close to her chest, taking quick nervous sips while her eyes darted around the room. Employees laughed from behind the empty row of cash registers. The bell above the door chimed and the lights above her started to flicker noisily.

She was at the edge now, the light in the tunnel having grown slightly brighter as the train approached. The gentle breeze grew stronger, the ends of her hair softly lifting to her left. The sound of the train grew louder but couldn’t overpower the electrical melody of the lights above her. Her skin was slicked with sweat despite the wind from the approaching train. The back of her hand burned in the exact spot where the half-moon mark was left on her. Her eyes felt glossy, and her tongue felt thick.

Inhale.

Phoebe coughed, her body shaking violently. Bringing her uninjured hand up to her mouth, she balked at the sight of the blood that covered it. Shaking, she lowered it back to her side.

Something rushed past her, too fast for her human eyes—a blur of sharp spines and inky black scales. Her head snapped in the direction of the shadow, seeing nothing. There was a flash of red to her right, and she twisted to get a better look at it, only to see an empty mint green tiled wall.

The lights still flickered, and the train still charged on, growing brighter and louder, but Phoebe could’ve sworn she heard some sort of clicking noise in her ear—a horribly inhuman, guttural clicking noise.

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Eyes watering, her breath came in short pants, and she bit down on her tongue to keep from screaming as the bite mark on her hand burned—something akin to hot oil on bare flesh. She was openly sweating now, her clothes damp, and her head felt hot with fever. A cough ripped its way from her chest again, her body doubling over as she spat blood over the edge of the platform.

Phoebe turned her head, her gums ached. She could see the train now and her mind cleared, a frightening sense of calm washing over her as she straightened and steeled herself.

She watched as the train came closer.

The wind grew harsh and bit at her wet face.

Closer.

A light above her popped and went dark.

Closer.

And then, without giving herself time to doubt her decision, she jumped.

She could only hope that it had followed.






[Read the first and third place stories]

Learn how you can participate in one of our Write-Prompt Flash Fiction Contests HERE

Order the next issue of Blank Spaces HERE

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