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.

Betsy

Photo of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

Writing Prompt by Writing.com
Place: on a boat
Character: a violinist
Object: one airline ticket
Mood: overwhelmed
Proofread: R.L. Campbell

The first thing I remember is the cold. It beat at my face like stabbing swords. Tiny stabbing swords the size of toothpicks. It hurt, those piercing little toothpick blades. Only, they weren’t “blades” at all, but … coldness. “Beat” isn’t the right word either. Splash, I guess, fits better. It was ice water after all. And even colder air.

I opened my eyes when the feeling of drowning overwhelmed the pain of the cold. I coughed, and that hurt more. Something was in my throat and in my nostrils, stinging me. Soda pop? Miniature bees? Water. I tried to roll over but found my body constricted. I could not move. Hogtied? … Kidnapped and drowning?!!

Betsy!

Blinking, I strained to look down at my body. Maybe it wasn’t even there, that would explain why I could not move. It was there. Well, something was there. I don’t wear plaid! No, not hogtied. I’m wrapped up and laying down. A plaid blanket. A cold blanket.

It was then when I started to feel like I was gaining my senses. Lying on my back, I could make out—see the overcast sky. I could smell smoke, acrid burning, chemical smoke. To my right a hard wood floor and a bundle of… another person. I am a person. A blue face but with puffs of visible vapor from the too-blue lips and nose at regular intervals.

Betsy.

A gasp and cough from the other side of me. I turned my head. It hurt. A similar sight.

“We … We will … make … it. Thank Ggggod … We will …make … it,” the bundled person to my left coughed out. He or she? I could not tell, but eyes I will never forget. They stared into mine. I could see beyond the physical and recognized shear relief and joy despite the shades of his/her blue lips and white cheeks. A smile even, though it seemed it would shatter those smooth frozen-looking cheeks.

I think we crashed into the water.

Betsy!

Thunder from above. Man made, the familiar thunder of a helicopter. Agonizing minutes rolled past as I searched frantically for the source of the sound. It was up there, and it was loud, like it would land right on top of me. Then I heard footsteps as bright yellow and orange jacketed men appeared. Comforting words, and confident commands.

The person to my right was gathered into a long basket. I knew what was going on now. My plane had crashed. It was a “water landing”, and some of us had survived. What about Betsy? I could not loose her. She was my only key to the future I had dreamed of. She was all I had brought with me on the plane.

It was just a short flight, no need for clothes or other baggage. Just fly in, audition, and fly out. Betsy would be the clincher. Without her my dreams of being a world-renowned violinist would shatter to a million pieces. The whole village depended on Betsy and me. They gathered the money and I would represent them.

Oh Betsy…

I didn’t even own a violin. The village only had one. It was lent to me for one month. That’s all I had and time was running out. One more audition, and the money was gone. If I did not get the seat, we would return home, Betsy and I, with my tail between my legs, so-to-speak. And the fate of my village for my failure? Who could say. They had invested in me. Me and Betsy.

The two passengers gone, the coast guard returned to me. Was I all that was left? The last to leave the little fishing boat that had plucked me away from what surely would have been a better future than returning home in shame, and without Betsy… No, death was not better. It was good to be alive. I will survive, and the village would prevail.

“I think this is yours,” the orange-vested man said and tucked something under my blanket. I could tell what it was. I remember holding it on the plane. It was something I had always thought I’d cherish, but now, I didn’t want anything to do with the airline ticket. It had stole my dreams, my passion, and my honor.

As I drew near the hovering helicopter, I was well aware that somewhere down below, perhaps in the cargo bay of the downed airplane was a trapped and drowning Betsy. If her case had survived, it would become her coffin, if violins could have one.

“So long Betsy,” I croaked out in a hoarse whisper. “I am sorry”

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.