Shawn Madison brings us something new: a challenge! More exactly, the “challenge” itself is new, but the idea dates from the earliest conception and purpose of Bewildering Stories : writers would be able to use each others’ ideas to mutual benefit. But that’s not all: readers can also join in. The “challenge” is a form of interactive, participatory literature.
The following is a scene from a story. But what is the story? Evidently, Shawn’s scene takes place at the end. Or does it? The readers are “challenged” to imagine what the full story might be. We invite variants for submission; the original scene may be included at some point but not necessarily in the same form as presented here. At the least, readers are invited to answer the questions at the end and to ask their own questions.
Thank you, Shawn! We hope your idea will be well received. Hopefully we can make the Bewildering Challenge a standard feature in future issues.
Jackson stood in wonder at the edge of the small bridge. The pale tones of the far-off Moon washed everything to grays and shadows. His mind was in turmoil, he could barely remember the accident, the heart rending terror of the impact, the blood... dear God, all the blood...
Then there was simply nothing, a great dark veil of simplicity that surrounded him, threatening to drown him in its thick, oily depths. Then, just as suddenly, he had found himself here, on the edge of this bridge, staring at the small structure just ahead.
What was this? He thought to himself, very conscious of the fact that he now had no heartbeat to speak of. Is this what I think...
His thoughts were cut off by the sudden creaking of the dark door set in the middle of the small cabin. His eye suddenly caught the shape of triangles adorning the wall he faced and it reminded him faintly of the Egyptian Pyramids. A small hand, pale as a ghost, issued forth and beckoned him closer.
“Come my son,” Jackson thought he heard as a wisp of a breeze blew past his ear and he felt his legs start to move. The small bridge made no sound as he crossed the ancient planks and he barely saw the movement of the gray waters below. The very feel of the air here was of ages long gone, and thoughts of the dawn of time swam through his mind...
“Come...” that breeze beckoned again and Jackson noticed that he was now mere inches from that hand. The thing was almost white enough to be translucent, no wrinkles could be seen but he could sense the great age of the being that it belonged to.
Just then, a face appeared in the shadows of the doorway and Jackson gasped in surprise, an action that came as much of a shock since he had not been breathing during all this time. The man appeared almost angelic, his serene face and loving eyes all but pulled Jackson’s body closer to the door.
“Through this way, son, just step through this way...” he heard again although the man’s mouth made no movements.
Jackson smiled then and all of his prior suspicions flew away on the slight wind. This is what he thought it was. Somehow, through all of the mess that he had made of his life, he was going to be heading in the right direction after all. A smile crept across Jackson’s face and he stepped through that ancient and dark doorway.
As he crossed the barrier that was the door of the small cabin, the white man stepped outside into the breeze and allowed that dark aperture to close behind Jackson’s back.
He smiled in vicious glee as the first screams issued forth through the doorway to Hell.
Copyright © 2003 by Shawn P. Madison
If you would like to send answers to any or all of the questions, we’d love to receive them. We’ll also publish them in future issues (anonymity assured on request). You can just click here.