This was a fun one. I entered a 500 word science fiction story contest with the entry below. I didn’t win but it was a good exercise in forcing yourself to be concise.
He could feel something wet leaving his body and dripping onto the ground. Sweat he hoped. Blood more likely. The Arm stopped above him. He held his breath and lay motionless. The wall creaked and a faint light appeared overhead. The Arm paused, sensed for movement one last time, and then disappeared as the light faded out behind it.
He stood up and took a deep breath. He stretched his arms in front of his body trying to feel through the darkness. Hoping to feel anything. Something other than a wall would offer enormous comfort.
In his head, he was drawing a map of what he discovered through feeling walls and counting his steps. But it seemed to expand, in every direction, endlessly. He knew he was either losing his sense of direction, or the space around him really was infinite.
He ran his hand along the wall until it met another wall, and he smiled. He liked finding corners. Corners offered safety from behind, but they limited his escape routes. He slid his hand down the wall to see where it ended. It was 25 steps away.
He slouched back in the corner. His eyes were getting heavy. But he didn’t want to commit to sleeping here. There had to be a better space with more escape routes, or at least an area that was more familiar. He stood up, and then heard the creaking of the wall opening around the corner. A faint light emerged but it was overcome by shadows. Lots of shadows. He ran. They followed.
Corner after corner he turned, recounting the map in his head. He slid his hand along the walls, turning and turning, counting his steps to retrace his path. 22 steps, turn right. 35 steps, left. They were getting closer. He turned a corner and saw a new light.
“They’re surrounding me,” he thought but had no choice but to continue towards the light. It got brighter. It was not the same light, or door as he had seen before. It was too bright for his eyes, but he continued towards it. An Arm slashed at his back. He covered his eyes with his elbow as he ran forward. And then it was silent. They were quiet behind him.
He wanted to pull his arm away from his eyes but it was too bright. He waited, not knowing what was around him. The quietness continued. He finally pulled his arm away. They all stood around him in a circle, his creations, his life work. Beyond them were dozens of screens with images of people running through the dark. They were scared, lost and confused. Lights next to each screen blinked on a large digital map. The group standing around him looked human, as he had always intended. But he knew they weren’t.