Flash Fiction Friday: Story #5

Flash Fiction Friday # 5 prompt:

Write a story less than 1,000 words based on the picture below:

Flash Fiction #5 Prompt - Snake Mask Picture

“Medusa’s Child”

Ellie sat in front of her computer terminal, her eyes watered from her unblinking gaze. The code on the screen listed endlessly as she slowly scrolled through it searching for the failing section. It was her needle in the proverbial haystack.

“Almost got it,” she said to no one as she leaned back and rubbed her eyes. She had been alone in the lab for awhile, but she hadn’t noticed up until a few hours before when hunger pains had finally forced her to retreat from the glow of the screen. Her dinner had been a bag of stale pretzels she was sure had not seen natural light since the early days of C and a cup of hot tea from the student lounge down the hall. Let the others rot their brains with soda and potato chips.

It had pained her to leave even for those few moments; the program was her life – her academic life. Yet, she had hoped that the few moments staring at something other than her code would bring new focus. But, there had been nothing. No eureka moment. No flashes of light other than the incessant flickering of the fluorescent ones above. There had to be something she wasn’t seeing.

Ellie hunched forward again to pick through the code in front of her. She could hear her mother’s voice telling her she needed to sit up straight and, while she was at it, brush her hair. She unconsciously ran her free hand through the matted mess. Suddenly, she saw it and a twinge of understanding lit her eyes. Her fingers began typing furiously, every now and then hitting two keys simultaneously, insuring nothing would be lost. She could not afford to lose it, not like the last time.

Hours passed before Ellie finally pushed her chair away from the terminal in triumph. She stroked the keyboard one last time to save it. This time she was done and all her work would pay off. Had to pay off. No one believed that mixing artificial intelligence, aspects of virtual reality and game theory, and above all mythology was worthy of her time, especially not the professors who had seen her brilliance in her freshman year. They called it “a game”, but she knew it was more than just game.

The title on the screen stared back at her. Medusa’s Child. She smiled to herself. It was silly, but the idea of naming her pride and joy after one of her favorite myths was just too delicious to pass up. She thought it was a fitting name since her program’s inaugural debut was the myth about Medusa and Perseus. However, it wasn’t Perseus and his gods that interested her. It was Medusa and her sister Gorgons.

“Now she would give the myth a better ending,” she thought.

Ellie got up and stretched her legs. She turned to the row of locked cabinets on the opposite side of the lab. The program was ready. She was ready. Why not.

She walked toward her marked cabinet and pulled out the painted key she kept around her neck on a silver chain. She inserted it and heard the small click. Opening the door, she saw the shadow of a nondescript thing – a burlap sack. Ellie pulled it out and placed it on the counter before her. She looked around the room. For some odd reason, she felt someone watching her, but dismissed it as nerves.

“I’m alone. No one can stop me. I’ll be fine.” She couldn’t help, but repeat the words over and over to herself as she lifted the object out of the sack, using it as a cushion. In front of her, was the ugliest mask she had ever seen. She had thought it a novelty item when she had bought it in the Greek Isles so long ago. The vacation had been her mother’s present to her for finishing her first year of college; something she had not been able to accomplish due to Ellie’s birth. But, since then, Ellie had discovered the mask held secrets.

Ellie looked over the mask. The jumble of snakes that jutted out of the green-tinged head stared at her. She carefully examined a small pack of electronics she had attached to the mask’s backside, making sure it was secure. She picked up the mask and stared into the large, bottomless eyes in the front. She stuck out her tongue, mimicking its facial expression as she carried it over to her terminal.

Balancing the mask in one arm, she reached around the terminal to the jumble of wires at the back. She couldn’t help, but notice the similarities between her terminal and the mask. She had hid behind the machine for most of her time at the college, never allowing others get close. The mask acted in the same way.

She hooked the wires to the electronic interface and punched a couple of keys. She waited for the last dialogue box to appear before placing the mask over her head. She felt her hair catch in the back, but with one good tug, it was on. She winced as some them were pulled out.

At first, Ellie panicked. She hadn’t thought about the lack of eye holes. “Thank goodness there was a hole for breathing,” she thought, but she could feel the claustrophobia setting in. She awkwardly searched her keyboard with one hand while the other balanced the mask on her shoulders. It wasn’t a heavy thing, but the halo of snakes made it cumbersome. She felt for the “Enter” key and took a deep breath. “Here goes everything.”

Ellie pushed the button.

The next morning the cleaning crew found Ellie slumped over the terminal unconscious and barely breathing. The mask had falling unto the floor opposite the monitor. Small scratch marks were found along its bottom edge. They called for an ambulance, and as the EMTs worked on her, they discovered small bite marks all around her neck.

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3 comments

  1. bk_30 Sep 29

    The bite marks on the neck..(shudder)

  2. JDB Sep 29

    It’s alive! Truly a frightening concept.

  3. Mel Oct 1

    Oooh, different! Bite marks, nice touch.

    Good read!

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