I wrote this last night at Denny's (the staff probably think I'm nuts because I'm always scribbling in a notebook), and used the word "red" as a prompt. When I thought of red, an image of a little girl on a dusty road with a red skipping rope popped into my head. There really wasn't anything planned about the story, and it evolved and developed as I went. It's just a snippet - not sure if I want to go further with it.
A young girl, Isabelle, walked plaintively down the dried up creek bed, trailing the remains of her shredded red jump rope behind her. The raw end bumped, bounced, and scratched against the water worn pebbles. No doubt the pebbles would have continued on their journey in Isabelle's direction, but the drought that started a decade ago ensured that they would remain in this spot for the foreseeable future.
Isabelle slowed, then stopped. She stared at a spot just in front of her scabbed and blistered toes. She sat, pulling her bare knees up to her chest. She reached back and pulled at the rope, bundling it up and hugging it to her knees. She was too dehydrated to cry.
As she sat still, the forest around began to fill with the noise of birds. The mammals and insects had moved on to wetter areas or died. The dry tinderbox forest was unmolested by predators. Isabelle listened to the clatter of the birds and wondered what they could be discussing. Another sound intruded. It was a rhythmic humming in the distance, downriver, if there were a river. The sound got louder, a thumping in the sky. Isabelle looked for the helicopter. She clutched the rope to her chest, tense with anticipation. It was five days since she ran from the campground, ran from that thing in the tent. Her mother had just chastised her for putting knots in the jump rope when it's bloodied hands ripped through the nylon. The rope was with her now only because it had been in her hand then.
The wingbeat of the helicopter intensified, but there was another sound, a frantic thrashing, then the scream of metal on metal. Isabelle saw bits of dry branches flying in all directions first, then saw the helicopter emerge into the clearing over the creek, a hundred yards away. The helicopter's white body spun as the wings caught and cut the trees. The pilot was clawing at a red window -- Isabelle could see his fingers making stripes on the windshield. The tail rotor dipped and dug a furrow in the bed. Rocks spat out and struck her. She fell to the ground and instinctively curled up and covered her face. The tail sheared off, and the main rotor keeled and carved into the creekbed. The engine burst into flame and the metal screaming faded.
Isabelle kept her eyes closed tight for a full minute. She was shaking. The air got hotter.
She stood up. The wreckage was in full orange bloom. The fire already sparked nearby brush, igniting the banks. She looked in shock and stepped backwards. There was a shrill scream from inside the cockpit. It was lit from inside. The door burst open then flapped back in place. A man spilled out -- the pilot, his right side covered in blood. He threw up, choking a bit on it as he was breathing heavily.
"Mister!" she yelled.
The man looked in her direction, then back at the cockpit.
"Oh my god!" he screamed. He looked back at Isabelle. "Run! Get out of here!"
"Mister, you okay?"
Another figure emerged from the cockpit, covered in blood and fumbling blindly. Recognition dawned on Isabelle's face. It was the thing in the tent, but it was different. This one was wearing the same uniform as the pilot, not her daddy's clothes.
The pilot screamed, trying to move back, hands scrabbling for purchase in the pebbles. The thing fell on top of the pilot, dug its raw face into the pilot's chest. The pilot flailed and bucked and scratched under the weight of the thing. Isabelle could see its teeth as it pulled up a mouthful of jacket, ripping. The pilot gripped its head and attempted to twist it to the side. It grabbed his elbows, pushed forward, snapped both joints. The pilot screamed, the thing dove for his throat. Blood spurt from the sides of its mouth.
Isabelle stepped back slowly. She watched the flames and the feeding figure. She saw it had two pits where eyes would be on a man. She quietly walked backwards, upriver.