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Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge Again – Banjo and the Wormhole

October 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Chuck Wendig has issued another flash fiction challenge. The deal is, week one you make up a title. Week two you pick someone else’s title and write a story. I selected the title ‘Banjo and the Wormhole’ submitted by writerchick, ie: Anita Rodgers.

This title stuck in my head, especially since I had been watched a program about Banjo Paterson’s birthplace. A few ideas flitted through my head but I couldn’t bring myself to mess with an icon of Australian poetry, though I did find the idea of the swagman jumping in the billabong actually jumping into a wormhole appealing. Maybe next time.

Banjo ran. He charged down the tunnel looking for the side corridor Sanjay had assured him was there, just a quick ten or fifteen minutes away from where this tunnel split off from the main corridor. He forgot to mention those minutes had to be spent running at full tilt, careening madly around corners, sliding down or scrambling up the undulating tunnel, desperate to stay ahead of a giant worm sliding down the tunnel behind you.

It wasn’t the worm’s fault. It probably wouldn’t even notice him as he was crushed against the tunnel wall as it galumphed by. The indemnity clause would definitely have to be rewritten. When Banjo had signed up to beta test his company Timex’s new Travel the Universe package, which involved jumping from planet to planet through inter-dimensional vortexes and space and time spanning worm holes, there hadn’t been any mention of actual worms.

Sliding down yet another nearly vertical decline, Banjo spied a break in the wall just ahead of him. He put on a last desperate burst of speed, bounced off the wall opposite the corridor and launched himself inside just as the worm dogging his heels slid by. This was definitely going to be rated as requiring a five star fitness level, certification required.

He lay on his back, panting, waiting for the blood to stop thundering through his veins as if it was trying to escape. Once he could breath normally he sighed, sat up and retrieved his pack where it had landed. After drinking the last of his water, he pulled out the data pad containing his itinerary. Damn, it said don’t drink all of your water. He quickly scanned through the rest of the instructions for the day. Not only was there no way to obtain any additional supplies, there were no comfort stations. He looked at the empty bottle and put it in his pack. Better keep it in case of emergencies.

He flicked back through the document until he reached a map. Apparently he was supposed to traverse through a maze of smaller tunnels that ran in roughly the same direction as the main corridor he had just left. It reached the same exit point only it took several hours longer. The up side was you were unlikely to end up as a smear on the wall.

After an hour of dead ends and backtracking Banjo realised two things, One, the map was crap. Two, he was hopelessly lost. Where was a panic button when you needed one? If his company wanted to include this side trip as an optional extra in their package, they were going to have to either map this maze properly or put in sign posts. Not that he could see the point. According to the outline Sanjay had given him, this mishmash of worm holes only lead to a third class agricultural planet a mere fifty years in the past. It wasn’t even interesting enough to be classified as a backwater. His accommodation for the stopover, should he ever get out of this maze, was a room in a boarding house. Not exactly the sort of thing the clients of Timex had come to expect. They typically wanted either seven star or the authentic native experience.

Deciding to ignore the map altogether, Banjo shoved it back into his pack. At each intersection he chose the path most travelled. Several hours later he was seriously contemplating both filling and then drinking from his water bottle. He was covered in grime, having fallen down a sink hole. The roof had also collapsed on him, not once but twice. As he turned what he thought was just another corner he found himself at his destination.

The small tunnel he was in terminated at a massive chamber, the roof invisible in the gloom. The walls appeared to be at least two football fields across and there was a constant stream of worms passing from one tunnel to another. Sanjay was reclining on a banana lounge in the centre of the room well clear of the worm flow. He had a cooler at his side and was reading something on his data pad.
Banjo marched over to him. ‘Bathroom?’
Sanjay waved at the wall where Banjo had come from without looking up from his book. ‘Two tunnels to the left.’

Banjo returned after taking care of business. He pushed Sanjay’s legs until there was room on the recliner, plopped down and opened the cooler. Pulling out a beer, he drank deep. ‘That map was crap.’
Sanjay grunted.
‘Seriously, you can’t expect clients to find there way through with something like that.’
Sanjay looked up from his book and frowned. ‘Actually, we weren’t expecting you to find your way out. We were planning on deploying our rescue response team. The auditors have been complaining the hasn’t been enough situational testing and I thought we could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.’
Banjo smirked. ‘Are you still sore about Alana? She was going to dump your sorry ass anyway.’
Sanjay sat up straight. ‘I told my mother about her.’
Banjo goggled at his frenemy. ‘She’s not the sort you take home to mother, unless your mother is an ex hippie or stripper or something.’
‘My mother is a very respectable mother, thank you very much.’
‘See, I did you a favour.’
Sanjay held out his hand. ‘Give me your data pad. I need to load the next itinerary.’
‘I thought I was staying in some craptastic boarding house for the night.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. That was booked when we didn’t expect you to make it out of the maze. No, you are going to Optima Beta Three, for the civil uprising. Should make for an interesting three days and two nights, breakfast and dinner included. The itinerary contains a list of all the highlights, culminating in the arrival of the patriot army who crush the rebellion in it’s meaty fist.’
‘Great. Do I get a vortex this time?’
Sanjay smiled. ‘Sorry, this is a space and time jump. You need a worm hole for that.’ He pointed at the far wall. Over there is the tunnel you need. It’s a high traffic tunnel, lots of worm activity, but there is no maze for this one. There are niches carved into the wall at intervals so you just need to pop into one and let the worms pass.’
‘And how far apart are these niches?’
‘It varies.’
‘Great.’ Banjo trudged over to his tunnel and watched for a few minutes, gauging the traffic flow. He looked over his shoulder, but Sanjay had gone.
‘Oh well, here goes nothing.’ Banjo ran.

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