Words of the Week
To help me keep on track with my writing goals, I am going to start making regular “Words of the Week” posts.
These posts will be where I share something new that I have written. It may be a short story, flash fiction, anything. Possibly even a serial that I have in mind… Who knows!
Back when I started this blog it was mainly a place for me to post my assignments for a travel writing course I was taking. I am working on a travel writing course again and so you’ll be seeing some of those assignments posted too.
This is the first “Words of the Week”, and I am still trying to work out the kinks of my plan for these posts, so bear with me as I figure it out.
Also, I know that this should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway. All stories and personal pictures on my site are my intellectual property. Don’t take any of it and use it without permission. Specifically to this post, future and previously written posts, do not use my writing.
This is a short story or flash fiction, if you will, that I wrote last week. Hope you like it!
Time has no meaning in the tower. Mitch finds it difficult to stay awake most nights during his shift.
He is dozing in his chair again, cheek propped on his hunched shoulder when the beeping wakes him. Startled, he leans forward, unsure what he is looking at, the confusion of sleep muddling his comprehension.
The room is dark, the only light coming from the monitors on the panel in front of him. Now a new light flashes. One Mitch has never seen before.
It flashes red in quick bursts, accompanied by a shrill beep. Each flash washes the room in an alarming crimson that at first makes Mitch think about blood.
He is filled with foreboding. This cannot be a good thing. It has never happened before and he is at a lost as to what it means. He is sure that this was covered in his training years ago, yet has no recollection of it.
Mitch is panicking slightly, wondering if he will lose his job. Then he wonders if this alarm could mean something worse and if he could be in danger of physical harm.
The phone under the counter rings. This being the ominous black phone that is not to be used. It hasn’t ever rung. Mitch hesitates before he opens the cupboard.
The phone keeps shrieking, a thrilling that grates his nerves when the cupboard doors are open. The ring is louder than the alarm and more frightening to him.
The receiver is almost ice cold under his fingers. This is when Mitch realizes that the temperature in the room has dropped drastically and he can see his own breath.
He raises the receiver to his ear, noticing that the monitors are all filling with a series of numbers that keep repeating.
Mitch has started shivering and his fingers are numb.
“Have you started the evacuation procedure?”
He doesn’t recognize the deep voice on the other end of the line.
“Who is this?”
“Have you started the evacuation procedure?”
Frantically Mitch looks around for his old procedure manual. Nothing. He can’t find it. He presses a few buttons on his keypad, hoping to provoke some response from the computer. Again, nothing.
“You have five minutes left to complete evacuation and exit the tower.”
Click. The line goes dead.
Mitch stares at the receiver unbelieving. What did that mean? The voice had sounded more angry than anything else. Mitch wonders if the anger indicates that he will only be losing his job and not causing loss of life, including his own.
He is not reassured by the loud sounds coming from his panel or the distinct change in atmosphere inside the tower.
Glancing at the steel door, Mitch leans down and does the only thing that he can think of at the moment. With a hard yank he pulls all the wires out of the wall. The monitors go dark.
The room is sunk into a piercing black, punctured only by the red flash that continues to blink incessantly. Somehow the beeping from the alarm seems to get louder.
Mitch can feel his lungs tightening. He feels claustrophobic in the blinding darkness. The eerie light is making things worse. He is having trouble catching his breath. It feels like ice hitting his lungs when he manages to take in some air.
Outside the door there are no sounds that Mitch can make out. There should be a guard posted there, one who locks and unlocks the door at the beginning and end of the shift.
Mitch is on his hands and knees. He cannot feel his fingers, toes, ears or nose. He crawls across the small room toward the door.
Hoping that the guard is still there he reaches up and feebly bangs his fists against the steel. It echoes loudly.
“Please! Someone open the door! I’m still in here!”
There is no response from the other side, no sound of a key sliding into the lock. Mitch imagines that there are icicles hanging from his nostrils. It has become so cold. He can’t think about anything except getting out.
He leans back against the door, wrapping his arms around himself to try and capture some warmth. In the red glow that washes over him every few seconds, he can see that his finger nails appear to have gone black.
Frantically Mitch turns slightly and slams his knuckles against the door. He cannot feel anything. It seems like he has to peel his fist from the steel door. His mind races and he thinks of his skin coming off with each bang on the freezing metal.
As he sits there in the cold his thoughts wander, finally resting on what he has done. With his final breath, Mitch is certain that his incompetence has caused the death of hundreds of people and that he deserves this kind of suffering.
With one last hitching intake of ice cold air, Mitch shudders and slides down the wall slightly, coming to rest sitting halfway up against the door.
At 4 am, the usual end of the shift, there is the creak outside the steel door of the tower. A key is inserted into the lock and turns with a clank. The door is pulled open. Bright light floods into the room.
Mitch’s body falls backward and comes to rest on the feet of the guard.
With a disgusted shake of his head the guard leans down and grasps Mitch under his arms and drags him into the hall. As he re-enters the small room at the top of the tower, the guard mutters under his breath.
“Should have read the damned manual.”
He strides purposefully across the little space, reaches under the counter and picks up the black phone.
“We’re going to need a tech up here. The guy ripped the wires out of the wall. And we’re going to need a new observer for the shift tomorrow night.”
There is a moment of silence as the guard listens to the voice on the line.
“Yeah. Froze to death. I’ll bring the body down now.”
Another moment while the guard listens. He sets the receiver down without saying another word. He closes the tower door behind him. There is a click as the lock is engaged.
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