Challenge # 2 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest was over the weekend. For the challenge we are given writing prompts at midnight and have 48 hours to write a story using 1000 words or less. My Challenge 2 prompts were:
Location: Wildlife Refuge
Object: A Silver Spoon
Attempting to write a thriller pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I like a good challenge, and I gave it my best shot. Here's what I came up with.
They responded to an ad. “Wildlife executive director of Silver Spoon Big Cat Sanctuary to retire. Seeking heir to oversee the preserve. Interested persons should respond at silverspoonsanctuary.com.” Four did.
It was a beautiful day for mid-September, a bright blue sky, warm breeze kind of day. Vik was first to arrive, a large, muscular, athletic looking man in his mid 50s. Lily pulled up right after him. He hauled his oversized backpack out of the Jeep, then turned to assist the slender, 40-something woman. She was intently taking in the scenery, gazing at the surrounding mountains. “Have you ever been out west before?” Vik asked.
“No, I haven’t. I’m eager to see it. I’ve lived in Boston most of my life.”
“What made you decide to come out here for this?”
“I needed a change,” She picked up her bag and walked over to the gate running her hand down the handles in the shape of silver spoons.
You could hear Sal and Mara before you could see them; clearly they liked Phish. They pulled up in a vintage VW Microbus, brightly painted in red and gold, emblazoned with the logo “The Hugos.”
A porter greeted them, “Welcome to Silver Spoon Sanctuary. I will escort you to your cabins. Please bring only your essentials. No weapons are permitted on the grounds.” They were taken to a cluster of three cabins alongside a small lake. “Diana is expecting you at six for dinner at the main house. You will find a map of the grounds in your cabins, there are ATVs in the barn for your use.”
Each took some time to get settled into their cabins. Vik was the first to emerge with a shotgun slung over his shoulder and some binoculars. Lily saw him from her window and met him outside. “What are you doing with that? We were instructed not to bring weapons.”
“It looks like we have a few hours to ourselves before we meet the director. I think I’ll take advantage of the time to do some tracking.” With that he sauntered over to the barn to retrieve an ATV.
Lily stalked after him. “We didn’t come here to hunt and track the animals. I think you should at least wait and meet Diana before exploring the grounds.”
“I’m not sure why you’re here, but I fully intend to make this a hunting and gaming preserve. I am going to get a look at the terrain and get a feel for the place,” retorted Vik.
“She’ll never allow that.”
“Once she’s out of here it’s no longer her call.” Vik sped off on one of the ATVs.
Upon hearing the commotion, Sal and Mara came out of their cabin. “Where’s he off to?” Sal asked.
“He’s a hunter, he wants to get a look at the grounds,” replied Lily disgusted.
“I did a little research on the sanctuary. Diana doesn’t keep it open to the public, except for the occasional fundraiser or educational workshop,” said Mara. “If we get the opportunity, Sal and I would like to open it up as an attraction. Let people come in and meet the animals and interact with them.”
“We traveled with a circus and did an act with trained tigers for several years. I enjoy working with the big cats in particular. Why are you here? What’s your plan?” asked Sal.
“I don’t have a plan.” Lily walked back to her cabin.
It was nearing six and Vik hadn’t come back to the cabins. “I think we should leave without him,” said Mara. Sal and Lily agreed and made their way to dinner.
The main house sat upon a hill overlooking the entire grounds. Behind it a tent with tables and a buffet was set. Diana emerged from the house, her constant companion by her side, a beautiful snow leopard. She slowly made her way to the tent, wearing a flowing light blue tunic that accentuated her gray hair and blue eyes. Woman and cat were a stunning sight to behold. “Hello, I am Diana and this is Gaia.
“She’s beautiful,” cooed Mara. “How did you tame her? I’ve never seen a wild cat so docile.”
“I haven’t tamed her. I don’t believe you can tame a wild animal, and make no mistake she is a wild animal. It appears we are short one.”
“Yes, Vik. He took an ATV out this afternoon and hasn’t made it back yet,” said Sal. A gunshot was heard in the distance, followed by the roars of two lions.
“That would be Athena and Artemis. They do sound hungry,” Diana, sat and stroked Gaia behind the ears.
“You don’t think that’s Vik? Should we go look for him?” asked Mara.
“I believe Athena and Artemis already found him. There is no point. Shall we eat, I’m sure you have some questions.” The stunned guests sat in silence. “Has the cat got your tongues?” Diana laughed. “Ah, Nyx, ever the curious one.” As she spoke a tiger sauntered around the table.
“I’ve worked with tigers in the past, I’ll show you I can train one,” boasted Sal. He got up and began to approach the tiger now seated on her right.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The tiger pinned its ears back and crouched.
“Sal, stop. Listen to her!” Mara jumped from her chair and rushed to Sal. Nyx pounced.
“Never approach the animal, always let the animal approach you. Never, ever make any sudden moves. Slowly Diana turned toward Lily, “and then there was one. Why are you here?”
Lily kneeled before her, “I’m lost. I have nothing left. I want their beauty, their strength, their courage.”
“What will you give them?”
The panther cub bounded from the shadows, approaching Lily. She licked her face and hands and curled up beside her.
“You have been chosen, name her well.” At that Diana and Gaia stood in unison and walked off into the mountains.
“Hope, I name her Hope.”
Once upon a time...
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