Ten Minutes Above

Empty T-Bar Lift

Prompt: Writing Prompts by Writing.com app
Place: a ski slope
Character: a court reporter
Object: a flatscreen TV
Mood: Aggravated
proofread: R.L. Campbell

“No, no. First the ski-lift stopped, then the lift shook along with the trees.” Rosemary said into her phone. She was the only person in the four-person chairlift. “I cannot get through to the lodge.”

Below her, the snow was shifting. The trees on her right had already been dozed by the moving snow a good fifty feet wide. She knew the lodge far behind her would have suffered the same fate. She knew, because she had heard just yesterday the concerns of one of the managers. That scene in the lobby had resulted in the manager being fired for attempting an evacuation.

‘He knew and he tried to save us,’ she thought for the thousandth time since the lift had stopped. ‘Why didn’t I leave!’ She wasn’t asking herself, she was berating herself. Others had left. She didn’t know if they had known the manager on a personal level, or if they had overheard his argument with the resorts owner. For her, it was the latter, but regardless, they were smart enough to leave. She should have been that smart.

The operator on the other end of her conversation was not cooperative. She didn’t know what was more aggravating, the fact that he was not taking her call serious, or that he kept referring to her as “sweetie”. Who cares how many college pranksters claim a massive avalanche has taken out the biggest ski resort in the state? All emergency calls should be considered serious. As a court stenographer, she knew of plenty of deaths related to imbecile emergency operators.

She was about to reiterate herself for a third time, when she saw the trees shake again. This was more than just an avalanche caused by record snowfall, it had to be something in the ground. Every time it had happened, the trees shook first, then the cable swayed and the chairlift swung. Long before the snow came.

She braced herself with her right arm around the safety bar. Whatever happened next, it would be big. She had never seen the trees sway that much. They started to shatter in the middle.

“Oh God!” Rosemary declared into the phone. At that moment, she abandoned her aggravation. Shear terror controlled her now. The phone fell as she flung her left arm over the back of the seat. Her torso was not long enough to lock the back of the chair up under her armpit, she would have to use her elbow instead. If the lift swayed half as much as the trees had, she would be flung off for sure.

The feeling of weightlessness tickled her stomach when the chairlift dropped a few feet. She looked up just in time to witness a massive wall of snow plow into and over the lift support ahead of her. It buckled and bent toward the full chair in front of her. The wall of snow crashed over like an ocean wave hitting the breakwaters in a hurricane. It engulfed the chairlift in front of her and she saw a bright orange backpack fall off.

Her chairlift bounced up and down this time, instead of swaying around. It jarred her spine, but she held tight. Her bladder released, but she was not aware of it. One of the people in front of her had become dislodged and was hanging by a foot. Rosemary watched in horror as the person tried to bend up and grab the chairlift, arms flailing. The snow below was closer, maybe less than eight feet.

The person fell.

Like quicksand, the snow swallowed him alive. Rosemary started to cry. It was involuntary, but she wasn’t going to attempt to stop. She saw only two heads left on the chairlift in front of her. Two people left, not the three there should have been, two. The backpack had not been a backpack after all.

The Ski-lift support was bent down slope. She was no engineer, but it didn’t take one to know it would break any moment.

“Oh God,” she wept. “Please let it hold. Please God.” She closed her eyes.

The Binder Clip Retrospect

Proofread by R.L. Campbell

The scene would have portrayed itself as humorous, had there been anybody to see it. Her head popping up from behind the gray cubicle wall. She could picture it. It would look like a video game. A comic video game once she pictured how large the room is.

She pulled her head back down. She had seen nobody. She hadn’t expected to, it had just been a cautionary reflex. At one o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t going to be anybody else.

Sitting back down, she began gathering up the report. She tapped the thick pile of papers on the desk to align them and reached for a paper clip. Her paperclip bowl was empty.

With a sigh, she set the report back down and stood up. Again, she peaked over the cubicle wall. It was an involuntary action, a remnant of the years she had spent in this office. Since her first day in a cubicle, she scanned the massive room every time she stood for any friendly faces outside their own cubicles. Again, she saw nobody, but this time she didn’t even register the thought.

She walked out the door-less space and began her zig-zag journey to her assigned supplies station. With a room this big, it comprised the entire floor. The office partitions were segregated by two wider hallways perpendicular to themselves into four main sections. The longer hallway was disrupted by the floors two supply stations, one on either end, but in the center of their two respective groups of cubicles.

Tonight, she was dressed to impress. On any normal work day, she would be considered over dressed in the red L’Wren knock-off. From behind, she could have left the distinct impression of a real-life Jessica Rabbit without the over exaggerated female features. She did have a pleasant but realistic hourglass shape, and she was proud of it, a result of hard discipline and daily use of the company’s physical fitness center. “Baby-making hips” and all.

On any other given night, she may have danced her way to the supply station the way the dress should have made her feel. She had felt that feeling earlier, before the date, and before that comment. As it was, she wore a stern expression instead of the laughing smile she had intended. It was just as well there was nobody there to see it. Forget Jessica Rabbit, she was Maleficent.

Dark thoughts consumed her as she marched closer to the supply station. She had not felt so dismal just a few moments ago when she was buried in her work. The events of the evening had been suppressed with the vigor she had thrown herself into the report. That was why she had gone to the office, to distract herself from that horrid date.

The distraction was supposed to help her forget. That was all she wanted when she arrived. She needed the whole thing to go away as though it had never happened. She hadn’t been angry then, just disappointed and shocked. What had changed? The report had done the job, just as she wished. The evening had never happened. Why did she have so much anger in her heart.

She reached the supply station. Was she angry for letting herself dress up like a “Hollywood princess”? Was she angry for how beautiful she knew she looked? She was angry because her paper clip bowl was empty and so was the cabinet where the paper clips were supposed to be.

“Why me!?” She yelled in frustration and anger. In the back of her mind, she was aware she sounded like a pirate. She lowered her voice even more, “UGH, WHY ME?

She was a confident business woman. Why would anything like this happen to her? She strived for success. She planned and achieved goals. How could it have happened to her, of all people?

She took a deep breath and tried to relax her fists. She turned and strode toward the second supply station. Her eyes creased and lips tight, breathing strong through her nostrils. It was a straight path, and she stretched her pace as long as the tight dress and pointed high heels would allow. There would be paperclips there. There had to be.

The fear of God would have burned into any office worker crossing her path with those high heels and her red lipstick if there had been anybody to burn. She was still alone at one in the morning, though office instinct was long gone now. The panes of the glass that encompassed the supply stations could have been sweating in fear of her catching a glimpse of those reflected “baby-making hips” sway to her heeled stride.

She used her tight closed lips as a breathing exercise. She breathed as deep and slow as her pace would allow. What had happened was in the past now, and she could vow to never let it happen again. She would dissect her errors, and eliminate any possibility of a repeat. She promised herself, she would never allow herself to be hurt like this again.

The second supply station’s paper clip cabinet was empty. The breathing exercises were working, and she had a plan now. Her heart would never be broken again. The anger was gone. As she stared into the empty cabinet, a deepness settled upon her countenance. At that moment, she knew she would be alone forever.

With a sigh, she stood and straightened. She adjusted the dress, pushing it downward with a slow gentle motion, hands over those hips. They were her mother’s hips, and she was proud of them.

Her first step faltered in those heels. She recovered and took another wavering step. Her confidence shattered, the pace she took back to her end of the office floor was slow and deliberate. She was alone. Not because it was one o’clock in the morning, but because that was the way it must be. It could never be the way it had been. There could no longer be hope. From this night forward, she would stop separating a personal life and the business life. It was all one now. All business. There was no more room for anything besides work.

She did not return to her cubicle. Instead she walked to another nondescript people-box and retrieved a key. From there, she walked across the room short-wise to the side not lined by windows, but which contained a line of glass conference rooms, break rooms, water stations, restrooms, stair and elevator access, and storerooms.

She pick a locked door and inserted the key. It didn’t turn. In truth, she had not expected it to turn. She had no more expectations. They were no longer allowed.

She tried the next door. The key turned and she poked her head inside. It was a dark empty looking room, like her soul felt. She considered giving up, and going home, but flipped up the light switch instead and looked closer. She stepped inside.

The shelves were empty, for the most part. The boxes that were there, were unrecognizable. The cabinets in the supply stations always held colorful individual boxes, but these were plain dismal cardboard boxes. Instead of looking for familiar pictures of paper-clips, she had to readjust her thinking, and read the dot-matrix style printing on the box.

She found one that read “B N D R C L P S” followed by arbitrary numbers and a large bar-code. She was looking for the large black paper clips with the hinges with flip-up handles, and that group of letters was the closest description.

“Things can be alright,” she whispered to herself.

The box was still taped, but she hadn’t seen anything in the tiny room to cut the tape with. She slid the rectangular box around so one of the ends faced her, and gave it a good punch near the top. The tape ripped apart, providing her with enough loose tape to grab onto and peal back the length of the top seam.

She opened the flaps to reveal several smaller boxes. These were a familiar site, and just what she was looking for. Her night had started to show improvement. She pulled out one of the colorful paperclip boxes and confirmed that it contained the black hinge style paper clip she was searching for. “Binder clips” the smaller boxes read.

She left the storeroom, careful to flip the light switch down and lock the door. She walked back to her assigned supply station and opened the binder clip box. Inside were even smaller boxes that she dumped into the the appropriate bin. She nodded in satisfaction, and took a box of clips.

A small grin had crept onto her face. Her step was swifter now, lighter. The confidence was returning. She knew how foolish she had been to let one bad date ruin her mood.

She stopped a moment at that other cubicle to return the key and proceeded to her own little person-cage. Forgoing any use of the letter opener sitting on the desk, she used her glossy red finger nail to cut the seal on the binder clip package and poured the binder clips into the dish.

She sat back in her chair and gave the report another look. She gathered the stack of papers and tapped them on the desktop. Without looking, she slipped her hand into the paperclip bowl and removed one of the binder clips.

The report was ready. She was ready. That confident business woman with a passionate personal life could conquer anything. To hell with any man who called her a “Hollywood princess wanna-be” who should put those “baby-making hips” to “good work”.

“What’s next world?” She said out loud as she stood and peeked over the cubicle wall. She gathered her purse and started walking out of her cubicle. “Bring it on.”

5-star Motel

Exercise from Writing Challenge app by Literautas
Challenge: Write a story that begins with this dialog, “Don’t answer the phone”
Proofread: R.L. Campbell

“Don’t answer the phone!” Jim ordered.

“Of course!” Wilma replied. “He must use the phone waves to travel, that’s how he’s doing it. The phone waves.”

Nancy and Beth nodded in agreement. It made perfect sense to them. Phone waves, you know, are invisible, so you don’t see anything until it gets to the other end. Neither of them could explain the history of phone waves or how they worked, they weren’t scientist after-all, but they both thought of the telephone as just an evolved string-phone in the darkest reaches of their mind. Didn’t everybody?

Jim, on the other hand, knew there was no such thing as phone waves. Despite his frustration at the current circumstance, he almost burst into laughter. Phone waves.

“What? No,” Jim said. “Nobody can travel through the phone lines.” To himself, he thought, “Not even electricity these days. Only light can travel through fiber-optic cabling… Maybe she meant phono as in phonetics, or sound, like sound waves,” he thought to himself.

“I just meant that it could be him,” Jim continued. “Giving us a call to taunt us, like they do in the movies. You know?”

“Oh,” Wilma started. “That makes sense too.” She nodded with vigor right along with Nancy and Beth.

“In that case,” Bill chimed in. “I’m going to answer it.” He picked up and yelled into the receiver before it even reached his ear. “What do you want?!!”

Jim, Wilma, Beth, and Nancy exchanged confused and curious looks as they watched Bill’s facial expression change from anger to quick shock and settling on narrow eyes glaring into the nothingness above the floor, and heard him ask “who is this?”

Bill thrust the receiver back in into the cradle. Without looking at the others, he simply said, “wrong number.” But nobody believed him. There had been a distinct, longish pause between the two words, and his voice may have had a tremble to it.

Bill made a visible effort to recheck the window and door locks. How many more hour to go before the safety of sunrise? The question was silent, they all wondered it It must be midnight by now…

Their plan had backfired. It was a total disaster. Their lives were on the line, and it had not happened at all like they had expected. Everything had played out right to the point when Nancy threw the toaster into the water and… The lights went out. That never happens in the movies. Well, of course that happens all the time, the lights going out. But what was supposed to happen, was the bad guy, who was in the pool, was supposed to be electrocuted to death. Instead, the circuit breaker had switched, and who knows where that is at.

“Um guys,” Beth’s voice broke the silence. “I was just sitting here, and I leaned back on the wall, and…”

Bill turned from examining the door hinges. Nancy, sitting on the floor against the bed, looked up from her shaking hands she was trying to keep steady in her lap. Jim looked away from the now quiet phone. Wilma had been watching Bill since he hung up the phone but now turned toward Beth. Everybody gaped in unison when they say it.

“… I felt this weird feeling,” Beth was saying. “It just shifted.” She gestured toward the gaping wall beside her as she stood up from the floor. “I don’t think it was me. One of you must have activated a release or something. She looked at the others, who all mirrored the suspecting gazes at each other, which were only met by shrugs and curt head shakes.

“Well, whatever it was,” Bill volunteered again. “This … This could be just what we came for.”

“Took the words right out of my mouth.” Jim said as he started toward the hidden door that had been a solid brick wall a moment before. He snatched up the flashlight that had been standing on end on top of the television and providing the group with light in the tiny motel room.

Nancy clapped her hands and brought them to her mouth. “Could this be it? After all this time?” She screeched aloud. She was almost excited. They had their share of disappointments this night.

As one, they all scrabbled after Jim, and the light. When he reached the opening, he gave it a hard push. The secret door opened wider to reveal stone steps descending before them into darkness. The steps had a slight turn to them, as if they spiraled beneath the ancient building.

The group walked down the steps as though they were one single mass. They stepped together whether they were on the same stair or not. If it could have been said that they were in order, it would be said that Bill took the rear, however hesitant, while Jim took the lead. Though whether lead or rear, it was all just a matter of mere inches. Personal space did not exist, and was the farthest thing from their minds.

The stairs tunneled down through mortared stone, a contrast to the red brick of the previous room. It did indeed spiral to the right. When they reached the bottom, it was anybody’s guess which direction they ended up facing or if they had spiraled back once, more than once, or not even once. Looking up, it was as dark as looking down had been from the top.

The mass that was made up of five individuals, though you would not know it, reached the bottom and walked the perimeter of the tiny room along the wall. It (they) could see the table in the middle, and what was resting atop it, yet it wanted to be sure. Part of it looked this way, and another part looked that way, but it was checking for more hidden passages, or nooks were something or someone could spring out to get it. Booby traps? Nope.

As if with one singular thought, the individuals separated and positioned themselves around the little table. Somebody took a huge breath and let it out, or maybe a couple of them did. This is it. This is the treasure they were searching for. The key to stopping the masked nemesis of the night. A simple crown … or hat? It looked like a crown, but it seemed to be made out of fabric. None of them touched it.

They didn’t really know what it was supposed to do, or be, but they did know the legend. Somehow, this treasure could be used as a weapon to see them safe, and, perhaps, stop their tormentor forever and ever.

“NELLA LORO PIU GRANDE ORA WENN DIE NOTWENDIGKEIT ENTSTEHT APPARAIT LA SALLE DE TOUT ESPOIR,” Jim read. “Anybody know what it means?” He asked. Nancy, Beth, Wilma and Bill all shook theirs.

“Sounds like Greek to me,” Wilma said.

“Isn’t that our luck,” Nancy said. It wasn’t a question. They didn’t know what to do with it, and gibberish was not helpful. She reach out for it.

They each reached out for it together as it turns out. Five of them stood there in a circle around the table with the fabric looking crown. A crown that just happened to have five tips pointed out outward, as if each one pointed to the person standing before it. Each of them took hold of the tip that pointed at them. Not all at the exact same time or anything like that. They just all had the same instinct to pick the thing up, that was all.

“Oh,” Nancy gasped, as the fabric looking crown seemed to float above the table. She did not let go though, or even think about it.

“Yeah. Wasn’t expecting this!” Bill declared, amused, bewildered and excited. A grin stretched across his face, it was mirrored on the faces of the other four as well.

The sense of wonder enveloped the group as the crown stretched out and grew in response to the motion of those who were holding on to it. Without realizing it, they all took their respected star-tips and, as if by illusion or hologram tucked it behind their heads. Their actions were the familiar fitting a hat by the back gesture, and that is what the hat, or crown, did.

The five people stood looking at each other, and laughed. They were all inside the crown wearing it together. Bill put his arms out and rested them on the shoulders of Nancy to his left and Beth to his right. In turn, Nancy and Beth put their respective arms around his back the other arm around the other two. Jim reached out his arms around Nancy’s shoulders to the right, and Wilma’s shoulders to the left. Wilma laughed at the gestures and put her arms around Jim and Beth. They all laughed like children would, wearing a giant crown.

Light blazed out of the crown from each of the five tips. It swirled around the tiny room, then condensed into a bright whiteness and shot up the stone stairway, like a sprung viper.

Jim seemed to be flying North through the sky. Leading a trail of blazing whiteness in his path. The darkness he flew through was lighted as if by the sun. Below he could see people in beds in their homes, and people walking the streets, perhaps on their way home from work or a bar, or whatever. He did not know. Others, he saw though, he knew what they were. When the sun he shown found them, they were burned to nothing in less than an instant.

Jim flew North, Wilma south, Nancy flew East, while Bill flew West, and Beth flew straight though the Earth. They each could see the evil before them, whether man or beast, male or female, in ground or above, burned to nothing in the light. They each saw their own path, and their trail spreading out behind them and merging. They could also see themselves still standing firm in that tiny room, huddled together under the giant crown.

Jim, Wilma, Nancy, and Bill flew until they reached the edge of sunlight before stopping, while Beth flew to the center of the Earth. It took a mere instant to reach their destinations and they paused for a mere instant more. For that instant the whole world was encased in sunlight. For that one instant the world was pierced by sunlight down to every minuscule particle.

The next instant, they stood huddled in a vacant lot, above ground. The crown gone. Their laughter subsided and went quiet in the silent night. They withdrew from each other, and looked around, each taking in their surroundings.

“I know this place,” Nancy said.

Jim and Bill nodded. Beth and Wilma chuckled, almost a giggle. They all knew the place. Their cars were each parked right where they had left them to check-in to the motel for the night. They stood in the middle of a vacant lot where the motel had stood. Now, it was just dead brush and weed, as though the motel where they had met each other for the first time, just hours earlier, had never existed.

“Well this was the worst night of my life,” Beth said. “Yet, strangely-”

“The best,” Bill blurted out. They all sighed in amused thought.

“Now what?” Wilma asked.