Category: Writing Samples

Flight 374

The flight from New York to LA takes just over 6 hours.

Martin VonBraun hugged his brother Joe goodbye at airport security. He spent some time in duty-free before he headed to Gate 7A. Joeseph made his way back into the city, through crowded tubes and up a cramped escalator to his office. He sat down at his desk as flight 374 was taking off from New York airport.

An hour later, Martin was sitting back and choosing which in-flight movie to watch. Joe was pouring over a legal case on his desk, feeling a little too hot. He called his secretary to open the window.

Two hours into the flight, Martin got up to use the bathroom. Joe was in a bathroom too, vomiting blood.

At hour three, Martin was asleep. Joe was paralyzed, but fully conscious.

At hour five, Joe watched as his fingers shriveled and turned black. Martin ordered a beer from the flight attendant.

The flight from New York to LA takes just over 6 hours. Parasite X kills its host 5 hours and 11 minutes from the time of infection.

Flight 374 was delayed coming into LA airport. Nobody from air traffic control would answer them. When they did eventually pluck up the courage to land, it appeared from the air that all flights had been grounded. As they came closer,  they saw the corpses littering the runways. Blackened and shriveled, like a fire had spread through every living person, leaving all else untouched.

The plane sat on the runway, but nobody ran out to meet them and nobody dared leave. They checked their phones. Messages from loved ones came through- emotional jigsaw pieces of the last 6 hours, as the parasite had infected and taken down the country. Possibly the world. The pilot radioed out. Perhaps there were other flights full of the uninfected. Perhaps there were more than these 204 survivors. Or perhaps not. It would only take one infected passenger to take down the whole plane. Maybe they’d all just been lucky.

Martin’s thought about calling his brother, but he couldn’t seem to move his fingers. The corpse of Joe VonBraun lay in a silent office, surrounded by so many more. His dead fingers curled against the floor. The parasite inside him, still hungry, took root in his brain. Joe was gone, but his fingers twitched. His eyes opened.


Via Daily Prompt: Infect

Written in the Stars

She stood on the shore and watched a star fall down from the heavens towards her. The closer it came, the smaller it got. It burnt brighter as it entered her atmosphere and then dimmed. She almost lost track of it altogether until she heard the thud of it landing in a sand dune behind her. She turned and ran to find it, just a small, flat piece of rock that had once been a star.

She picked it up. It was almost too hot to hold. She turned it over in her hand and couldn’t believe what she saw. There, etched in the stone in shimmering silver were the words: hello. Is there anyone out there as lonely as me?

The words made her heart hurt. She turned the stone over and pulled out a black marker pen from her pocket.

Yes. She wrote back and threw it as hard as she could in to the heavens. It vanished. She stood alone for a while feeling how small she was in this big and empty universe.

The next night she watched as another star fell towards her. This one was much bigger and it said I have thrown my words to the universe for centuries and now it has thrown me back a friend. Who are you?

And so they began to write to each other. The girl on the shore and the girl in the stars had a conversation that spanned the cosmos. It travelled at lightspeeds through moonbeams. It dove in to black holes and bounced across galaxies. The universe was still big and they were still small, but no longer alone. They had fallen in love in the starlight.

One night, without warning, the girl in the stars stopped replying. The girl on the shore waited. For decades she threw words at the stars who stayed silent. Her hair turned grey, her hands hurt when she moved them but still she wrote. Still she waited.

I miss you, she wrote with a shaley hand and raised her arm to throw it. But then in the distance she saw something. At first she thought it was her old eyes failing her, but as she squinted at the sky she saw the light of a falling star. When it entered her atmosphere it did not dim. It grew brighter and brighter until she almost couldn’t bare to look. One last flash and then there in the sand in front of her was a beautiful woman made of stardust.

“My love,” she smiled at the old woman on the shore. “You are so beautiful.”

The old woman blushed. “I am old,” she said.

“Your age is nothing compared to the universe. Everything that is anything no once burned in the heart of a star. Your outer shell does not matter. Not when we are all made of stardust.”

Via Daily Prompt: Blush

Dead Man’s Grasp

The key is kept in the dead man’s grasp.

That was it. That was all I had. A clue whispered to me through breaks in a fever dream. I held on to it tightly. I repeated it to myself over and over so it would not slip away.

I had been aware of someone in my room- a dark figure that I immediately knew was not a nurse. He came closer. He smelled of the sea. He made no noise when he walked. I did not see his face, but I did hear him whisper. The key is kept in the dead man’s grasp. I remember the moment of clarity in hearing those words. I knew exactly what he meant. I remember nodding, or at least trying to.

And then he was gone and the room was painfully bright. Monitors beeped beside me. A nurse had just finished opening my curtains. I remembered the man. I remembered his words. But I did not remember the meaning. I tried to sit up. If I could just get to the man. If I could just get him back I could ask him what he meant. The nurse gently pushed me back down. “Good to have you back with us,” he beamed at me.  He did not sound like the man. “We thought that fever might never break. It’s best if you lie still for a while, so we can keep an eye on you.”

He poured some water in to a plastic cup and handed it to me.  As I drank, I looked around. The room was familiar. I knew where I was. I’d flitted in and out of consciousness in this bed and taken some of it in. It had felt like I’d had one foot here and one foot… somewhere else. Perhaps not so much flitting in and out of consciousness, as flitting between consciousness’s. I was crushed that this reality was the one which I was now confined to.

That thought arrived in my head and, as if on some kind of cue, my family arrived in my room. We talked and they seemed happy. The talked to the doctors about keeping me in for a few more days until they were sure the fever had passed. I couldn’t really focus on any of them. They had layers they kept hidden from me and I hadn’t been able to see it until now. There were secrets in their smiles, lies hidden in their hugs and in between us there was discord between who we are and who we all thought each other to be. We were all strangers on a first name basis. I was restless until they left.

They key is kept in the dead man’s grasp.

I whispered it over and over again until the sun set. Until the main lights went out. Then I got up and put on some of the clothes on that my mother had brought me and left on a chair by my bed. I took a nurse’s pass from behind reception and walked down the stairs and through the door marked ‘Morgue.’

I checked the hands of every corpse. No keys. Nothing. The closest I came to finding anything was a scalpel blade that had been left lying beside the hand of a dead man. I picked it up anyway and held it tight.

Maybe a bit too tight. The blade cut my palm.

The pain was another moment of clarity. The first I’d felt since I woke up. All of my former grogginess was gone. I grasped it tighter. My blood ran on to the floor.

I hear it drip, drip, drip. I heard it gush. I smelled the sea.

A dark figure that I knew was not a nurse stood by the doorway. “Come home,” he whispered.

 

Via Daily Post: Grasp

Fortune Teller

The fairground is nearly empty when you arrive. You pass tired children, drooped in their parents’ arms and insisting (between yawns) that they’re not tired and they can do just five more minutes. You step over candyfloss wrappers and coffee cups. It smells like burnt popcorn and roasted almonds. Some of the rides have shut down already and you can hear the rest slowing down around you.

The neon lights on the carnival rides and around the tented roofs of game stalls and food stands show you the way, like a convoy of fireflies. They lead you to the door of the Fortune Teller’s tent.

The door is, of course, already open and he has stood to greet you.

“I need-” you begin.

“I know,” he nods and the tent door swings shut, silently. He puts a gentle hand on either side of your face. He tells you this will hurt, but not for long and then he reaches in to the back of your throat, down in to your chest and scoops out your heart.

It is excruciating. But not for long.

When he puts it down on the table you feel so much lighter. You sit across from him and you both stare at your heavy heart on the table.

It does not look the way that you thought it would. You were prepared for something heart-shaped, or at worst some blood and gore, but what sits in front of you is more like a large, matted bundle of string. It’s like when you pull a clump of hair from a shower drain, except every strand is a different colour. You had no idea there were so many colours.

The Fortune Teller tuts. “My, my,” he says. “I haven’t seen a heart in this much of a tangle for a while. You’ve tied yourself in knots.”

He spends some time untangling them and shows you every one. Each heartstring is tied to a different person- a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, a colleague- people you’d known your whole life and people you’d only met for a day. The strings are all different thicknesses, different lengths.

You see the threads of your life laid out in front of you with perfect clarity. You can see the people who love you. You can see the ones who don’t. And you can see how significant each thread is.

“Now,” the Fortune Teller smiles a small smile. “Now that you can see it all, you have a choice. You can piece yourself back together. Or you can restart.”

Restart.

It sounds so easy. Like a reboot. A chance to do better the next time round. To fix all the things that went wrong now, but you know that’s not true. You know that restarting means a new life. New people. New ways to mess up. You know that it means the end of this life. Goodbyes. Tears. And funeral costs.

You look back up at the Fortune Teller. He smiles because he already knew what you would say and then you start to weave your life back together.

Via Daily Prompt: Restart

Lighthouse Keeper

At night the sea matches the sky. Clear midnight skies mean calm inky waters, a still blanket of stars beneath the heavens. Stormy skies mean turbulent seas, high winds tussling with high waves.

The Lighthouse Keeper sees it all.

She lives in circular walls. In the evenings she sets a mug down on her round kitchen table and pours herself a cup of tea. She then carries it up the long staircase that spirals up the inside of her lighthouse. On the side closest to the wall she has chipped away at the brickwork and now a small alcove runs parallel to the banister. She has partially filled it with hand-written notebooks.

It is her library.

Every now and then the sea and the sky will present her with a lost soul. She takes them in and make them cocoa. In return, they will give her their stories and she will write them down. Then, as they sleep, she would use the stories to judge where they should go- to the depths or to the heavens.

As she runs past them, she hears the pages whisper secrets and it sends a shiver up her spine.

She reaches the top, where her bed sits underneath a round trap-door. She stands on it and pushes it open with her free hand. Her other hand reaches up and sets the mug down on the floor above her. Then she pulls herself through. The glass dome opens up the world around her- sky, sea and land. They all circle her. They are all stormy, but the inside of the lighthouse is still.

The light spins in the centre. It is dim tonight. She knows this means the sea and sky will giver her a new soul and her spine tingles again. She is ready for more stories.

She watches the waves until she sees a ship being tossed in the swell. She sets down her cup of tea and makes her way back down the staircase. By the time she has reached the bottom and run barefoot into storm, a woman has washed up on her shore. She is cold. She is soaked through and slipping in and out of consciousness. The Lighthouse Keeper picks her up.

The woman’s eyes flicker open as she is carried back to the shelter of the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Keeper smiles down at the woman in her and feels her soul flutter in her chest.

The light in the lighthouse burns brighter.

Via Daily Prompt: Dim

The Middle of a Vanishing Act

A wisp of smoke in the pitch black. It rises up from the ground and curls, like a incandescent snake climbing towards the moonlight. From its base, cracks of crimson shoot out towards you.

You stop… in case the ground is about to fall apart. You know you should run, but your hammering, awe-filled heart keeps you to rooted to the ground.

A sound in the silence. A faint, melodic hum and a perfectly in-time drum. It grows so loud that the cracks in ground pulse. They widen.

You can smell caramel apples. And freshly-made popcorn.

The wisp of smoke starts to move like a drawing on a chalkboard. The outline of a person in a top hat and a slightly billowing jacket. Applause leaks through the cracks in the ground. The dark space between the outline grows more solid and then there she is.

The applause is gone. The music stops. The cracks are sealed without a trace. The smoke disperses in to the night. And her surprised face stares at you from under her top hat. Her suit is midnight black. Her eyes a bright and piercing green.

“Where the hell did you come from?” she asks. And you almost laugh because you feel like you could ask her the same thing.

In stead, you ask, “Who are you?” Because that feels more polite.

“I’m a conjurer,” she says, conjuring up a caramel apple and handing it to you. “I usually disappear for a break during my vanishing act… I’ve never vanished to in front of a person before.”

“Don’t they notice you’re gone?” you ask.

“I can chose the moment of time I re-appear to. It’ll be seconds to them, but I could spend a few hours here. If you wouldn’t mind?”

You don’t know what to say, so you take a bite of the apple. Warm, sweet and delicious. It has a caramel core too.

She watches you and smiles so brightly it puts stars in the sky.

via Daily Prompt: Conjure

NaNoWriMo Eve

‘Twas the night before NaNoWriMo and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The writing desk by the window was tidied with care,
In hopes that inspiration soon would be there;
Characters were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of plotlines danced in their heads.

 

So, I’m attempting NaNoWriMo this year- if anyone else is doing it let me know and we can be buddies 🙂

 

 

Author: Clara Ross