The following is a very short story (460 words) that I wrote for the first prompt of the book The Write Practice: 14 Prompts by Joe Bunting (available for the Kindle from Amazon, or on Joe’s blog The Write Practice as a PDF file. All feedback is welcome (and while I enjoy compliments as much as the next guy, constructive feedback would be more helpful 8^).
The Wrong Turn
It’s late. I’m exhausted. Shoulders are aching. No sound but the hum of the engine and the tires. My wife’s asleep beside me, the kids in back. Twelve hours on the road. I’ve got to find a hotel before I fall asleep at the wheel. But I want a name I know. This place scares me, even up here on the interstate, above the building roofs. Industrial, dirty, urban decay. Like a scene from some dark movie.
Finally, a Holiday Inn! One more exit and I’ll be done driving for today. I can feel the pillow already. There’s the exit. Should be a sign at the end of the off ramp telling me which way to go.
Hmm, no sign. That’s strange. No hotel in sight. Left or right? I’ll try left.
Uh oh, something is not right. Dirty red brick tenements, no lights in most of them. Some with broken windows not even boarded up. The shell of a car, stripped for parts and left to rust on the side of the road. Litter strewn everywhere. Most of the street lights are out. No other vehicles. What did I get myself into? Suddenly I’m fully alert.
My wife stirs beside me. “Where are we?” she asks sleepily.
“I was looking for a hotel, but I think I took a wrong turn.”.
“I don’t like the look of this.”
“Me neither. Lock the doors. If I don’t see anything soon I’ll turn back.”
Red light up ahead. Oh shit! Two groups of guys move out of the shadows, converging on the intersection where we’ll be stopped. My heart starts to pound. A chill forms in the pit of my stomach, moves up my spine. My mind races.
Screw this! I’m not getting carjacked. No other cars coming. I speed up and blow through the red light, just before they block my path. Not sure I’d stop if they did. A hard left, tires screeching. I’m not stopping until I’m back on the interstate.
Another light, still no cars. I don’t even notice the colour of the light. Another screeching left. At last, the interstate, looming over the dark buildings. A couple more blocks and I should be able to find the on ramp.
There, to my left! Finally we’re heading up out of that terrible place. I realize I’ve been holding my breath. I take a deep breath as I merge onto the interstate, then wipe the sweat from my forehead.
I’ve just seen the dark heart of a northeast American city. Now I understand the reality of urban decay. I hope to never it again. I’m wide awake now, and I’m not stopping until I get to somewhere I would consider civilization.