#FridayFlash: Palimpsest


by Tony Noland

With both hands, he yanked her inside and slammed the door, hard. When he turned around, he saw her lying across the bed, on top of the floral print comforter that was probably older than she was.

He asked her name, who she was, where she'd come from. She didn't answer.

Voice more frantic than commanding, he told her to get up, get off the bed. She did.  After a moment, he told her to get out of her wet clothes. She didn't.

A heavy boom of thunder rolled across the sky, muffled to a softly thudding echo by the falling snow. It was coming down blizzard-thick, obscuring the lights out on the highway to dull orange glints, only barely and intermittently visible. He looked at her and told her again to go take off her clothes, or she would surely catch pneumonia. She looked back with an expression that was hollow, her dull eyes showing little recognition or understanding.

From double-wound scarf to thick leather boots, she was covered in snow. Where her hair pushed out from under her hood, it was encased in a mass of ice, melting and dripping onto her face in the warmth of the room. The tip of her nose was waxy-white; the florid red of her cheeks was rising and spreading like a slow poison across her skin. She lifted a hand to her face and covered a deep yawn that cracked the skin of her badly chapped lips. The motion seemed to make her swoon and she sank back down onto the bed, eyes closing.

He grabbed her and forced her to stand, shaking her, yelling in her face about hypothermia and going to sleep and never waking up and the need to get out of her wet clothes. Didn't she know they were trapped with no phone and the power could go out any minute? There was no help to be had, not until the storm was over. She blinked twice, slowly. Again, he asked her name, asked her where she'd come from, did she have a room here, why she was out in the parking lot in this storm.

She yawned and sagged into his arms.

The weight was more than he expected and he staggered backwards, dropping her. She slipped sideways and hit the bedframe, her forehead clunking off the edge of the metal with a wet, tearing sound. He grabbed at her shoulder, shouting at her to wake up. Her glazed eyes rolling up at him, full of hope and despair. She was an outcast from a race of angels, all tears and blood and ice water, running down the flushed skin of her smooth, perfect, newly-marred face.

He eased her head to the floor and ran to the bathroom. Arms full of thin hotel towels, he tore at her clothes, pushing at the heavy, wet canvas and nylon. Stripped to her skin, she was naked and blue-white in the spreading pool of her own blood and meltwater. She offered nothing, neither assistance nor resistance, as he dried her, bandaged her and put her in the bed.

As he kicked off his boots, he prayed that, whoever she was, the warmth of his own body would be enough.

n.b. This story came about through the intersection of three separate story prompts:

The Six Words challenged of Easily Mused: thunder, softly, poison, boots, highway, ice

This week's Three Word Wednesday (for which I already wrote a limerick): dull, race, yawn

John Wiswell's writing challenge of September 14

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Great tension here. It seems to be a scene against a backdrop of impending disaster.

    I hope he saved her. And didn't make things worse with that knock on the head.

  2. Great flash fiction. I love the hint at sinister/sexual undertones at the end and the line about the red of her cheeks spreading like poison. Beautiful.

  3. This really moves. I want to see more of it.

    Great use of three words. Here is my attempt.

  4. Sounds she went through something very very traumatic!

  5. This was really good. Very descriptive, taking us step by step through the anxiety about the girl that the man had.

    The writing was so good I could see it all happening.


  6. Talk about a scattershot approach! Great job managing so many prompts and challenges at once, Tony.

  7. I want to know who and what her story is!

  8. Raises lots of questions about the girl, but also about the man - and it sounds like he might just be an angel himself, in his own way.

  9. So very vivid. I love how he appears to be a stranger yet desperate to help her. I agree with Icy here... maybe he's the angel.

    I'm going to be thinking about this all day. Sooo jealous of how well you craft sentences--beautifully written.

  10. louisebroadbentfiction: thanks, Louise!

    Alice: I'm glad you liked it!

    storytreasury: She's half dead with cold and brought into a stranger's hotel room. I'd say so!

    Helen: Thanks, Helen. I was trying to cram a lot of tension in there, along with the prompt items.

    John Wiswell: Talk about a scattershot approach! Too much?

    laradunning: I want to know who and what her story is! She's running away from an abuse relationship with an older man. Or rather, she's running away from that man's corpse, because she's afraid that she'll be blamed for his death. She did actually kill him... sort of. It's just that she wanted to be somewhere else when his body was discovered; being caught in the storm was an accident, a mistake.

    Icy: Raises lots of questions about the girl ... which I hope my previous answer addresses... but also about the man - and it sounds like he might just be an angel himself, in his own way. In his own way, yes. Not quite the way you might think, but yes.

    Tomara Armstrong: I'm flattered, thank you!

  11. Good pacing here too. I felt the sense of urgency, but you were able to linger just enough so that I really wanted to move on and read quicker.

  12. This was fantastic, Tony. I could feel his desperation. Very nicely done and excellent use of ALL the prompts.

  13. Michael: Thanks! I sped up and slowed down the pacing in this one several times until I found a mix of urgency and stillness that I liked.

    daniellelapaglia: Very nicely done and excellent use of ALL the prompts. Sometimes, all you need is a little desperation. 8-)

  14. "...her forehead clunking off the edge of the metal with a wet, tearing sound..."

    Ow! This is full of great descriptions, Tony, and I believe you got the pacing just right.

    Nice work.

  15. This was really good. You captured the frantic feeling so well. I wasn't sure at first, when he yanked her inside, if he was the enemy or the savior. Love the last line. Leaves a lot open (does that mean you'll be adding more to this one?).

    (p.s. sorry I spelled the title wrong in my 6 for Sunday post yesterday. I corrected it, fyi. :))


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