NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge #1 (July 22-24): Group 42, Sci-Fi/Dance Hall/Lottery Ticket

The Piper

A young woman whose family vanishes and leaves her completely alone meets a handsome stranger who turns out to be not quite who she thinks he is.

* **

When I was barely 19, my family vanished. There was no evidence of foul play surrounding their disappearances and after a while, everyone stopped looking for them or hoping they would return home one day. Instead, they gave up, told me I needed to let go and move on, and let the case run cold.

One night when I was feeling particularly alone, I went out dancing because doing that made me feel alive. The beat was mesmerizing and I began to dance my emotions out, when suddenly someone I had never seen before entered the room. He was tall and handsome, with a chiseled jawline, blonde hair, and sparkling blue eyes. He had charisma that could not be ignored and a quality that made me trust him before he ever spoke. He scanned the room, looking for someone. To my surprise, our eyes locked.

He strode toward me and my heart quickened.

“I’m Hamelin.” said the handsome stranger.

He held out his hand.

“Chloe.” I said, feeling my cheeks go pink. I couldn’t imagine why he would be interested in me.

“Nice to meet you, Chloe.” said Hamelin.

We danced together for a few songs and then, as quickly as he came, he left. As he was heading out the door, I realized he had dropped a piece of paper so I picked it up and ran after him.

“Keep it,” he called. “Maybe you’ll win something.”

The paper he dropped was a ticket for a lottery that was to be held that evening at a club I had never heard of called The Pavilion.

I rushed to The Pavilion, feeling out of place because people looked like they were ready for ballroom dancing instead of swaying mindlessly to the DJ’s beats. I stayed because I thought I might win something with the ticket.

Soon after I entered, the countdown began. It wouldn’t be long before the big moment arrived.

I felt the room buzz with excitement as the drawing crept closer, a sea of faces impatiently anticipating.

“0-9-7-2-4-6,” the voice announced. I could hardly believe it. That was my number!

I went to claim my prize.

I won a trip in a time machine. This terrified and thrilled me, but I accepted because I had nothing to lose. I was told that we were leaving at midnight. It was 11:25 at this point.

Midnight came and Hamelin ambled into the room, walking with what appeared to be a moped.

“Hey,” he said, as he flashed a grin at me. “I’m glad to see you could make it.”

“You’re the time machine guy?” I asked.

“Yep. That’s me.” he said. “I just need to know where…er, when you want to go. The kinks are all worked out, I think.”

I have to admit that the “I think” at the end of what he said didn’t inspire confidence in me as his passenger. I decided to throw caution to the wind though, and live for today.

“I want to go to September 16th, 2009. That’s the day my family disappeared. Maybe if we go there, we can solve the mystery and get them home.”

“You got it!” he said.

“Just one thing before we go, though.” I said. “How does all this work exactly?”

“All we do,” he said, “is put the moped into the stationary bicycle frame, set the gauge to the proper date and time, and the machine will do the rest. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long it’s safe to stay on the other side of a wormhole, so we need to keep our time short once we are there. No more than 12 hours.”

I asked if he’d done this before and he admitted that this would not only be my maiden voyage, but his as well.

Hamelin turned to me. “Here we go.” he said, excitement and trepidation creeping into his voice in equal parts.

“Here we go.”

We were not in the wormhole long before we suddenly found ourselves standing in the yard outside my childhood home. There were mom and dad, my sister, and even our dog. I ran to throw my arms around them, but they could neither see nor hear me and nothing I did could make them see me.

Hamelin urged me to move forward in time to when they actually disappeared since we only had 12 hours to work with when I noticed someone driving slowly toward my family. As the hooded figure approached, Hamelin became more insistent that it was time to leave. I told him I wanted to stay a few minutes and see what happened.

The figure came very close to my family and the reason that Hamelin was so adamant about leaving when he was growing nearer became crystal clear. The figure somehow convinced them to go with him. As they drove away, the car vanished.

I knew at that moment, I would never see them again.

“Hamelin, please take me home.” I choked out.

“As you wish, my sweet.” he cooed.

He started the moped, set the dials, and put it in motion.

The next thing I knew, we were back in The Pavilion. To my horror, my eyes settled on the spot on the floor where my mortal body lie. I started noticing other things. The Pavilion looked different. It was no longer filled with the living but those who were taken to the other side by the ancient lone piper from the fairy tale, known only to me as Hamelin. My family and I were reunited, not in the way that I had hoped, but we now knew we would never have to part ways again.

As for Hamelin, if you ever meet a disarmingly handsome and charming man in a club who takes a sudden interest in you, my advice is to avoid him as if your life depends on it.

It just might.

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