Freedom

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Review Chain

A late entry in the Review Chain Contest.


The man started far down the street. He wasn’t the only one on the street. Several people were walking around. It was a busy day.

Luke was hardly paying attention to the man. He was sitting at a desk his bedroom window, sketching his neighbor’s house. He was supposed to be writing an essay.

The room was hot. His dad was going to get the A/C fixed today. He hadn't gotten home from work. 

Luke was drenched in sweat. A drop fell onto his drawing. He grumbled a complaint and ripped the paper from his notebook.

Then, he spotted the man again. He was walking down the street. A cloud of dust was floating in the air behind him.

Luke blinked, unsure what to think of it.

The man was wearing a tuxedo. His face was set in a wide smile. He stopped a woman pushing a stroller. The two of them started talking. The woman started laughing. The man’s smile didn’t seem to move. How was he talking?

Luke was watching him closely now. The street seemed empty now. Everyone aside from the man, the woman and her stroller was gone.

“Luke!”

Luke’s mother called from his bedroom door.

Its almost supper time!”

“Alright, mom!” Luke called back, turning away from the window. He got up, stretching. The essay could wait until after dinner.

The cloud of dust caught Luke’s eye.

The man was walking down the street again. The woman was gone. The stroller was lying on its side. A cloud of dust lingered in the air around it.

“What?” Luke’s heart jumped into his throat. He leaned forward, peering out the window.

The man met Luke’s eyes.

Luke couldn’t quite describe the feeling that overtook him. A deep uncontrollable response. His body tensed, his blood went cold.

The man’s expression didn’t change. He kept walking, getting closer to Luke’s house.

Luke backed away from the window. His throat was dry.

“M-mom!” Luke called out, stumbling into his chair. “Mom!” He darted for his bedroom door.

“What is it?” Luke’s mother called from downstairs. “Luke?”

Luke ran into the hallway and took the stairs by twos. His mother was in the kitchen, stirring stew in a pot.

“What’s gotten into you?” Luke’s mother asked.

“There’s a man outside. He looks weird!”

Three heavy knocks echoed through the kitchen. The front door rattled on its hinges.

“Who is it?” Luke’s mother asked. She put the lid on the pot and headed for the door.

“Wait!” Luke darted after his mother, grabbing at her arm. “Don’t let him in!”

“What’s wrong?” Luke’s mother stopped in front of the door. Her hand was on the doorknob. “Tell me.”

“I saw him,” Luke said. “He um…” He tried to explain what he’d seen. What had he seen? He was at a loss for a moment.

“He could need help,” Luke’s mother said. “Hold on.” She opened the door.

The man was taller than Luke realized. His frame filled the doorway.

The same feeling overtook Luke. His legs nearly collapsed under his weight.

“Good morning,” The man said. He offered Luke’s mother his head. His mouth didn’t move.

“Its four o clock.” Luke’s mother replied, taking the man’s hand.

“So it is,” The man said, shaking her hand.

Luke’s mother tugged softly against the man’s grip. He didn’t let go.

Luke trembled, watching closely. The man didn’t spare him a glance. His gray eyes were locked on his mother.

“Excuse me,” Luke’s mother said. “Youre still holding my hand.”

“Question,” The man said. “Have you heard the good news?”

Luke’s mother tugged harder against the man’s grip. She was visibly stressed.

“Is this some kind of religious thing?” Luke’s mother asked.

The man’s other hand shot forward, clasping her wrist.

Luke’s mother cried out, struggling to get free.

“Let go of me!” She grunted. The man’s grip tightened.

Luke’s mother kicked at the man, but he was hardly affected.

“Its unfortunate.”

It happened in an instant.

Luke’s mother was gone. He’d blinked and he was alone with the man.

A  cloud of dust lingered in the air where she’d been standing.

“Mom?” Luke asked. He stumbled backward, landing on his back. His legs wouldn’t move. His teeth chattered.

The man’s gray eyes landed on him. Up close, it was clear he wasn’t normal. His movements weren’t natural, too stiff.

“Have you heard the good news?” The man asked, stepping into the house. Luke didn’t respond. “God above is weighing all of our sins.”

The dust was settling. Luke stared blankly at the cloud. Was that his mother?

The man stood over Luke, offering him a hand.

“Allow me to bring you to God above.”

Luke’s legs moved.

He turned and stumbled away from the man. He ran straight into a nearby wall.

Heavy steps followed behind Luke as he stumbled across the kitchen. His hands found the handles of the pot.

With effort, Luke hurled the boiling pot at the man. The pot hit his chest and clattered on the floor, its contents spilling on his clothes. The man didn’t budge.

Some of the stew simmered on the man’s arm. Electricity crackled around his sleeve.

“Are you a robot?” Luke asked.

The man paused, looking down at his arm.

“I am a construct of the Lord,” The man said. “My creator served God with all of his life. I am all that is left of him. I will carry out his will.”

“What did you do to my mom?” Luke demanded. A confidence was growing within him.

“Your mother was deemed unworthy,” The thing said. “My creator acted on God’s wish to purge this plain of those unworthy ones. My creation is his way of following through on that wish.”

The two of them circled each other in the kitchen. Luke can hear a low hum coming from the thing.

“Where did she go?” Luke asked. His voice cracked.

“She and all of the others will be blessed with eternal freedom in nothingness,” The thing said. “Those who remain will inherit the earth in God’s name.”

The machine knelt in front of Luke. It's legs creaked and whirred.

 Luke stepped backward into the counter. His heart was racing. His stomach churned. He couldn’t see a way past the thing.

“Are you worthy?” The thing's hand shot forward, clasping Luke’s arm.

Luke screamed. A burning pain overwhelmed him. He quivered in the thing’s grasp.

“Please!” Luke begged. “Don’t make me disappear!”

The thing’s empty eyes stared into Luke.

Luke’s fear seemed to fade as he stared at the thing. The world faded away. Luke was floating in a vast emptiness.

A bright light shone infinitely away from Luke. He reached out for it. Somehow, it was just within his grasp.

Its unfortunate,” The machine said.

 



Submitted: May 14, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Matthew Hair. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

Damon Nomad

Good short story, nicely paced, good dialing, building to an interesting end.

Sat, May 14th, 2022 9:29am

Author
Reply

Thank you. I appreciate your thoughts. :)

Tue, May 17th, 2022 5:31pm

G.P.Sharp

Amazingly built up tension and escalation. Loved the dialougue as well; it felt natural from both Luke and his mother, and the robot was just the right anount of unsettling religious allegory. While we don't get much from Luke as a character, the speed at which you dive into the action and the robot's motif more than make up for it; I was fascinated by every line and decision made by the machine. There were sometimes that I felt word repetition within the same paragraphs made the prose feel off, but mainly only in the beginning, and only in the description/actions; in the dialogue it was incredibly done. I think you ended the story with the perfect line. I wish you luck in the contest, and I think this one is my favorite entry this time around; nice job!

Sun, May 15th, 2022 12:39am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much. Good luck to you too! :)

Tue, May 17th, 2022 5:32pm

FromBlackToViloet

Yay! I'm always a sucker for thriller and suspense AI. Like what the other commentors mentioned. I felt like the story flowed smoothly, with brittle tension of each line, and the pacing of the paragraphs didn't drag. Like it dived right into the action and got into it. I like the subtle tension you saw with the boy seeing the man with the strange pin-coat. Like it was an ordinary day, till the boy spotted him. It's just the sublte imagery and the man's dialogue made me have goosebumps. It was downright creepy so nice job with that. It's like he's trying to rid people with less sense. He feels like they need redemption. I was curious, why the man wanted the boy particulary. Was it because he's a kid, or something more sinister? You as a writer did great making me think and guess about this. Anyways, I just put some icomments with grammar. MY new fav word is unfortunate lol. Good luck with the contest:)

Sun, May 15th, 2022 6:41pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for the comment. I wanted to leave the man's intentions vague so that anyone could imagine what they wanted. Good luck to you too! :)

Tue, May 17th, 2022 5:34pm

Greythereadaholic

Great tension throughout the story. It was an interesting take on the religious robot prompt and definitely creepy. The characters were all well written and believable. My only critique would be that a few of the sentences, especially at the beginning, were worded a bit weirdly, but it doesn't take away too much from the overall story.

Good luck with the contest!

Tue, May 17th, 2022 8:24pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for the comment! Good luck to you too! :)

Tue, May 17th, 2022 5:34pm

CreativeMarauder

A very simple but powerful allegory, quite brilliant actually. It tickles my brain. I think this idea would make an interesting backdrop for a much larger story.

Thu, May 19th, 2022 2:58pm

Archia

I really loved your story. You built up the tension so well and it moved seamlessly from just casually looking out of the window to being sucked in by a robot. I've had people knock on my door before wanting to preach, but I'm lucky none of them have ever been this menacing. I was really curious to see how people would use this prompt and I think you've done it in a really creative and creepy way. I liked that while it was creepy, and I know it would never happen, it seemed quite realistic and like it could happen. It was a great story to read.

Wed, June 1st, 2022 7:36am

Author
Reply

Thanks, Archia. I actually had a vague idea for this story before the contest bouncing around in my head. I wanted to do something with a creepy monster approaching down the street with the kid watching.

It wasn't until I saw the prompt for the contest that I thought of the robot aspect of it and how I could make him act like a pushy church guy.

Admittedly, I feel like I could've incorporated the robot part a bit better. I think if I ever wanted to revamp this story with a few extra hundred words, Id add a bit more details on the functions of the robot. Maybe even elaborate on his motivations.

All in all, though, I'm glad with how this turned out. I had a lot of fun writing it.

Wed, June 1st, 2022 8:53pm

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