Friday Fictioneers: Out of the Woods

It’s not quite Friday yet, not for another eight hours, but that’s okay. I’m posting my 100 (and a bit) word Friday Fictioneers story now. You can too – just go to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’s Fictioneers page, read the explanation, look at the photo prompt. And share your inspiration with the world.

aqueduct-sarah-ann-hallOut of the Woods

These hills used to be full of farms. Full of people. Now they’re gone. Can’t even get bars on your phone. I wouldn’t be hiking here if this was still somebody’s field – they’d notice and come chase me out. If only.

Old stone wall. Got to sit down. I’ll, I’ll check if the strips of shirt around my ankle are holding. Check my cell. Still no bars.

Time to move on. Something white up ahead? Fence. And over there, that was a house.

And this was a road, once. Now it’s just a gap in the trees. Well, easier walking. Limping.

Check the phone first. Wait – two bars, three, here in the open?


* * *

Please let me know what you think. I love comments!

30 responses to “Friday Fictioneers: Out of the Woods

  1. I like the build-up of tension, with the protagonist alone, isolated and injured–but persevering to the unusual end, which opens up a world of possibilities. A great use of the 100 words!

    • Thank you! That’s exactly the effect I wanted. (And as usual, I threw away large chunks of the first version. Looking back, it’s a better story without them.)

  2. You story exemplifies how dependent we are on our phones. I think that’s a private family cemetery behind the fence. Be careful out there.

    • My character certainly should have been more careful! But he’d be in even worse trouble back when there were only landlines 😉 – in those days, he really would have to limp all the way back to civilization to get help.

  3. We seem to have acquired the idea that if we have our phone we’ll be okay but as you’ve highlighted so well its often not the case! I’ve found that sometimes my phone will spend so much energy signal seeking that when there is one again the battery is low.

    • Technology is great, but sometimes it just isn’t there for us!

      Come to think of it, part of the inspiration for this story might be the way my computer turned itself off suddenly several days ago and obdurately refused to turn back on until I replaced some crucial parts…

  4. Dear Sharon,
    Cell and bars? A double entendre, perhaps? Made me do a double-take in any case. 😉
    You mean we had lives before cell phones? Geez, I’m one of the worst when it comes to iPhone dependence.
    Glad your character made contact. Well done.

    • Must be that telepathy stuff. It didn’t occur to me until a few hours ago – perhaps about the time you were writing your comment – that there could be a double meaning there 😉 It wasn’t what I consciously intended, but he does seem to be trapped outside our usual world, doesn’t he?

      Thank you!

  5. Helena Hann-Basquiat

    Ah, the modern terror — being incommunicado. Excellent build up of anxiety, darling.

    • Thank you! (Though actually, my character has a pretty timeless terror to worry about – he’s alone in the woods far from help with a badly sprained ankle. I needed the cell phone as a way to get him out of this fine mess!)

  6. my ex-husband volunteers with the Welsh mountain rescue team and they have had to rescue people who have got lost because they thought their GPS fancy phone would work everywhere. Loved the story as usual. I like the fact that you can get the message across in so few words.

  7. Oh how many times have I been in the woods with a bar-less phone… Usually that is a good thing, but with injuries ,, it brings me back to the day I fell on some ice walking the dog and no phone service… I had to walk out broken arm, with the dog yanking the lead. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. petrujviljoen

    When I go for a walk in the woods, I make a point of leaving my phone behind. I’d hate to get a call from someone promoting something. I’m careful how I go so I won’t get hurt or lost.

    • Good luck to you! (Personally, I carry my phone but don’t turn it on unless I want to use it – there are times when I don’t want to be totally available 😉 )

  9. I once read that authors have problems with the availiability of connections everywhere as it spoils the plot… and therefore have to add things like dropping the phone, or bad coverage… personally I carry the phone everywhere I go, but I take vacation where there is NO coverage whatsoever… that’s freedom.

    • Cell phones are a plot problem, especially for some types of stories – I’m fond of mysteries from the 1930s and 40s, but today it’s amusing to see how many complications could be shortcircuited if the private detectives watching a suspect could just take their phones out of their pockets instead of having to go hunt for a pay phone. As for my phone – I carry one with me in case of an emergency, but I hate the idea of being permanently on call – so I leave it off most of the time. I completely agree with you about freedom.

      And now the big secret – in the first version of this story, there was no cell phone at all! I added the phone when I started trying to figure out how to end the story without killing off my character (since Jack London wrote the ultimate “inexperienced hiker dies in the wilderness” story around a hundred years ago, and I’m not going to compete with him). It surprised me to see that almost everyone who commented thought this was specifically a story about phones – I guess that shows all of us that what your readers see isn’t always what you thought you were writing 😉

  10. I can picture this – an empty road, a deserted landscape – brilliant writing 🙂

  11. Nice depiction of our bold new world of cell phones & how without them we are lost. What if we lost other conveniences such as electricity and TV and radio as well?

    • Thank you! As for other conveniences – well, electricity underlies phones and TV and radio, so without it we’d lose all of them and more (Candles and oil lamps, anybody? No air conditioning, no electric stoves? No – gasp! – no Internet?) I think phones might be the most crucial, though. Without TV and radio, we’d have to go back to other ways of informing and amusing ourselves; without phones, we’d be thrown back to messages that have to be physically carried from one place to another, much slower than the speed-of-light communication phones provide.

  12. I love the descriptions of peaceful nature cut with the narrator checking their phone for bars constantly. Good commentary on modern society.

  13. I like the clipped writing – that breathlessness and need to get on well portrayed.

    • Thank you! It does fit the situation, I think – though some of the clipped style results from trying to wedge as much story as possible into the (roughly) hundred words 😉

  14. Cells and bars and strips of shirt around ankles. I was thinking more like ‘escaped convict’, Sidney Poitier or Great Expectations! Plus, cell phones are called mobile phones here in the UK. Your story could go in many directions. Great suspense. By the way, I have a mobile – sorry – cell phone, which I rarely use. Can’t stand the things. I don’t see why I should be available 24 hours a day. Ann

    • It’s always a challenge to know what terms are going to make sense internationally! “Cell” is the common term in my part of the US, and phones here display from zero to four vertical bars to indicate how strong a connection you have. (Cell comes from the – ideally overlapping – “cells” of space covered by the system, and dead spots definitely exist; a friend of mine can’t get a connection at all in her kitchen. Of course, dead spots are much more common in thinly populated areas.)

      I won’t be surprised if they’re simply called “phones” in another decade or so – young adults don’t remember a time when all phones were solidly attached to the wall, and don’t feel a need to make the distinction.

      Probably I should have squeezed something explaining the injury into the hundred words – the background in my head that didn’t make it into the final version was that he fell down a steep slope and sprained his ankle badly (or just possibly broke it; it can be hard to tell at first).

      As for those non-wired-in phones, I loathe them too, though I have one in case I need to call for help in an emergency. I think it comes from years and years of working in user support, when the phone on my desk could ring at any second and drag me away from the project I was trying to finish (which was also a required part of my job). Anyway, I really treasure the option of being inaccessible.

      • Our situations are so geographically different! Here, you can’t get away from a hot spot. Not exactly – in the countryside here you can get pockets of poor reception. Ann

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