Saturday, January 09, 2010

Entry #76

The Space Between
by KateInTheCloset

Two of us were lunching at a sidewalk cafe, just bitching about our boss, when a pigeon fell from the clouds. Plop, right next to our laptop bags.

Plop. Plop plop plop-plop-ploploplop.

Now we could see the sky was a wrong-colored pall, settling.

Millions shrieked and scattered. Every being above ground succumbed within minutes, but hundreds of thousands poured into the cavities below. To escape the gas, we gushed through the subways and sewers. To escape the crowds, we flowed through unmarked doors, down unlit stairwells, and seeped through hatches into yet more secret places.

Finally there was only a crawlspace, a black horizontal crevice between the concrete city and the damp earth, wider than we could perceive but barely two feet high. Perhaps a few hundred of us oozed quietly through it, distributing like cells smeared on a microscope slide. No one spoke or cried here; there were only grunts and stifled squeaks as bloodied fingers and knees met the dry crunch of former tenants.

When I collapsed onto my back at last, his hand groped my arm. He whispered my name. “How long do you think we have?”

I felt for his hair, and said into his ear, “less than an hour.”

I’d never touched him before.

“Does your phone work?”
“No. Yours?”

We’d never be with our own families again. That life was already over. These minutes were something else.

I held his face against mine as he reached under my shirt.


Bernita said...

Truly excellent.

Anthony Rapino said...

Wow, that was very cool. It had a surreal feeling to it at times.

Aniket Thakkar said...

Don't know who else they have left behind when they say family.

But who are we to judge, when love is in the air...

Unknown said...

Very cool. You conveyed the panic and desperation very well. Great scene!

Kate said...

Bernita - Thanks so much!

Onipar - Thanks, I was going for surreal in the middle there. I've been in a situation sort of like this (public panic and running) and it WAS surreal.

Aniket - "Love Is In The Air" might have made a hilarious alternate title.

Maybe Genius - Thank you! I'm glad it worked.

Aimee Laine said...

Scary. Love that they are together.

PJD said...

I mostly ignore the titles, but your reply to Aniket's comment made me realize how good your title is. when I read the first few sentences, I thought we were in for a delicious joy ride (I hate pigeons), but the the surreal middle section hit, and the crunch of former tenants sucked all the air out.

There was another, earlier entry that also touched on the idea that in the end, when all else is gone, the touch and comfort of another person may mean everything. A very good story you have here with a strong plot arc, compared to many entries.

Craig said...

Not your usual office romance.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Not your usual office romance.

You can say that again.

Very well done. A lot of depth for so few words.

JaneyV said...

Kate - I thought that this was going to be something quite different. The plop, plop, plop of the pigeon was so comedic them Wham! we're in the catacombs fighting for survival. What a ride!

I loved it!

Kartik said...

Beautifully done ... I love how the story is transformed and the pacing is superb!

wrath999 said...

Excellent stuff. I enjoyed this

Lena said...

A great story with strong writing and a good plot. Everything that a story needs to be. Loved it!

catvibe said...

I think I'd totally go for it too. I mean, what the hell? It's the end of the world for god's sake! Well written, really engaging. Had a Time Machine kind of feel to it in a way

Kate said...

Aimee Laine, Craig, Sarah, Kartik, Wrath999, Lena, and Catvibe - thank you so much for your comments!

PJD - I'm so glad the layered meanings of the title came across, and I REALLY appreciate the compliments.

Kate said...

JanieV - I hadn't realized how funny people would find the dead pidgeon plops, but perhaps it's for the best:) Thanks for your comment!

Kim Soles said...

I enjoyed the intensity of the piece! Well done.

JaneyV said...

I think the 'plops' are brilliant because you're almost lulled into a false sense of what's happening so that it becomes all the more sinister when they all start falling out of the sky and the 'action' starts.

Anonymous said...

Good build of tension and surreal feeling.

I liked this line "Perhaps a few hundred of us oozed quietly through it, distributing like cells smeared on a microscope slide"

Nice work.

Paul (entry #7)

Ellie said...

I thought this was really fantastic. The imagery and the ending have stuck with me ever since I read it.

The one thing that didn't work for me was the way the voice shifted in the middle. The beginning and ending are so narrow in scope, so personal: just what these two people see and feel. In the middle, though, the camera pulls back to an uninvolved narrator's voice, describing millions of people, broad strokes. It pulls me away from the two main characters, which makes me sad, because as I said, the ending is superb.

Thank you so much for such a lovely entry.

Kate said...

Kim & Paul - thank you, I'm so pleased you enjoyed it!

JaneyV - sorry I misspelled your name before! And I really, really appreciate the plop feedback :)

Ellie - thank you so much for the compliments and feedback. The change in voice for the middle was a calculated risk. I was trying to lead the reader through the same emotional jar the narrator is experiencing: perfectly mundane and self-involved one minute, a drop of water in a maelstrom the next. I changed the scope of 'we' from two to hundreds-of-thousands to evoke the sudden sense of community that arises during life-and-death crises, then gradually narrowed it back down as hope decays. Only when the struggle is over and the outcome forgone are these two individuals again. Like I said, it was a risk. Thanks again for the feedback!

laughingwolf said...

great, kate!

Laurel said...

distributing like cells smeared on a microscope slide

Sheer, glistening brilliance.

This is a fantastic piece. We have several post-apocolyptic entries, but this one is actually apocolyptic. The descriptions and shift from mundane to desperation are palpable.

Hats off.

DILLIGAF said...

The most basic instinct at the end of all things.

That is the 'strongest' piece of writing I've had the privilege of reading here.

As Laurel said. Mundane - Apocalypse. Not many could carry that off. You did. Big time!

You just knocked my #1 to #2.

Fantastic stuff!!!

TL said...

I loved this. Wow. So powerful, it felt like a full story in that short span of words. Incredibly well written.

Anonymous said...

Definately didn't see that one coming. Great read.

Deb Smythe said...

The apocalypse in 250 words and a final grope for the road. Great job of twisting sadness to a smile at the end.

Chris Eldin said...

I liked the shift in focus in the middle. It made the beginning and end more stark, sharper. I loved the humor and the surreal feel to it. And I also love the title. In my top ten.

Kate said...

laughingwolf, Tara & CJT - Thanks, folks!

Laurel - I really appreciate both the glowing compliment and the specific and helpful feedback.

Four Dinners - Guh! I'm so honored!

Deb - ...and a final grope for the road. LOL! Thanks!

Chris - thanks for that really useful feedback. I'm honored to be in your top ten.

kashers said...

An excellent story that kept surprising me right up to the end. Loved it.

Terri said...

Wow. From that first innocent "plop" in the beginning I would never have believed the ride you were going to take us on. Outstanding!

james r tomlinson said...

That ending is something else! Tragedy can make some folks do bold, if not evil, things.

Anonymous said...

Dear Entrants #1-105,

I have read your pieces so that I can fairly participate in the Readers' Choice vote. (I read all of them through last week, before I started commenting.) I will be coming back around to offer my keep/tweak comment, but I didn't want anyone to snark.

Aerin (#236)

BTW, it's perfectly fine if you still want to snark, but this way you can choose a more appropriate subject, like Sarah Palin's hair or the enigmatic career of Justin Timberlake.