“Have you ever dreamt about dying?” Natalie lay back against the cement steps of the staircase and folded her arms over her chest.
Last night, Kate and I decided to take one picture prompt and each write flash fiction about it in notebooks, our ideas completely secret from each other. Then we had a blast reading them in GoogleDocs and commenting fun/weird stuff! It was very cool to see how our stories turned out totally polar opposite genres and themes from the same exact same picture!
I adore Kate’s story. Almost entirely set on a bleak cement staircase it starts out innocent enough, two kids skipping out on PE, and then slams you with adrenaline when you suddenly realize things aren’t quite as normal/contemporary as they seem!!!
Honestly, sis, you did an amazing job developing your characters and world super quickly! Caleb is such a sweet, boyish person. Natalie is normal and a little quirky. And their school? Epic. I can hear the sirens and feel the panic of the crowded stairwells. 😉 And love love love the ending message!!!
Thanks so much for doing this with me, Katie! 🙂
Check out Kate’s blog to read my story, brought to you by a rock-solid coffee I found in the freezer, a 10:30 PM brain, and the idea “what if they are looking at something on the ceiling?” 😀 It is titled “Truly Fantastic”… because I couldn’t think of anything better. lol
Here is the picture prompt and Kate’s amazing, dystopian, deep, intense story!!
The Storm Upstairs, by Kate Willis
“Have you ever dreamt about dying?” Natalie lay back against the cement steps of the staircase and folded her arms over her chest. Pipes snaked across the ceiling, painted a dull, matte gray the same color as the walls. The same color as the sliver of sky that showed through the window to the outdoors. The same color as her thoughts.
“Not really,” Caleb said comfortably, a teasing tone coming into his voice. “But if I had, it probably would have begun with Miss Lawson finding us in this stairwell during PE and sometime after that the principal’s office and being expelled and ending up on the street as beggars with weird hats.” He crossed his arms to imitate her and tried to look serious.
“How does skipping PE land you on the streets?” Natalie giggled. The sound felt strange in her ears. She didn’t have much to laugh over anymore.
“I’ve heard that the weirder your hat, the more people stop with handouts,” Caleb mused. He ran his fingers along the smooth texture of the wall.
“Anyway, Miss Lawson is all bark and no bite. I overheard her telling Miss Jewel that she lets us skip PE because we’re only here for our brains.” Natalie yawned.
“Which means more time in the simulators!” Caleb punched the air. “Why are we in the stairwell, again, instead of using the computers?”
“Because this is traditional, you told me so yourself.” Natalie ooched one foot up onto the next step. “Do you ever wonder what it’s like being one of the other kids that go here? Always knowing you’d be safe no matter what happens. Only having to worry about jumping jacks and English papers.”
“It’s probably like when we were younger,” Caleb said, sitting up and dusting the spiderwebs out of his thatch of black-brown hair.
“I guess that makes us adults now.” Natalie followed his example and rested her blonde head on her knees. “Thanks to an A+ grade in science and math, we got a special assignment.”
“Cheer up, Professor Natalie,” he teased. “At least we can’t fail those classes or get simulator access revoked.”
A pounding overhead alerted them to someone coming down the stairs.
“Miss Lawson,” Natalie hissed.
“What was our good excuse going to be?”
“Hey guys, what are you doing down there?” A kid’s voice from several flights up. They craned their necks to look up at him, just to be sure.
“Skipping PE,” Caleb yelled back.
Caleb moved to punch the air, but a blaring alarm that echoed through the stairwell cut him off. He pulled out his vibrating phone and showed the screen to Natalie. “It’s starting.”
They both jerked to their feet, and adrenaline surged through Natalie. Caleb didn’t hesitate at all but sprang forward, taking the stairs two at a time. Natalie followed him, and they soon passed the kid on his way down to the basement.
“Be careful,” he called to them. “We’re depending on you.”
The alarm continued, louder this time, echoing deep into Natalie’s stomach. She caught a glimpse of the sky just before the windows sealed over. The gray was turning a pale, sickly green, and she was glad she wouldn’t be able to see out the windows for a long time.
A door to the stairwell opened, and six nurses passed them, intent on the precious, sleeping bundles they carried down the stairs. A trio of gray-haired doctors with files under their arms and stethoscopes draped around their necks nodded solemnly at the two teenagers running up the stairs.
No one followed them, but as they passed each level, a door opened and more people swarmed down the stairs in the opposite direction. Floor four brought them two organized troops of the littlests, and she and Caleb stepped out of the way and pressed themselves against the wall.
A different alarm blared, and Caleb broke into a run, pushing past people and dodging the carts full of spare oxygen tanks. Natalie struggled to keep up, her breath coming in ragged gasps, and she tripped, bruising her knee on the edge of a cement step. Caleb helped her up, keeping a firm hold on her hand and pulling her along with him.
She was shaking, and she knew it. The blare of the alarms. The anxious faces searching hers. The tramping of feet. She just needed to make it to the tower room. Only a few flights left.
Caleb pulled her aside as the science lab team filled the staircase.
“Natalie, you asked me if I’d dreamed about dying, because you have, haven’t you?”
She nodded, looking up at the last flight of stairs to a door marked “Tower”.
“And it started just like this.”
That’s when Natalie knew why they’d been chosen to man the anti-radiation tower. To neutralize the storm of the century from an enclosed glass box. A box that was meant to hold up against pressure and wind, but no one could know for sure. It wasn’t an A+ in science or math or anything that could be measured on a test.
No matter how many people had passed them on the way down, they hadn’t even considered not going up.
Natalie was shaking, it was true. She couldn’t pretend to not be afraid, but whatever happened, she knew where she was going, and that the others would be safe.
Tell us what you think! ~A