View Writing Prompt: Oh, the Irony & Lonely Planet
Emily remembered the day she learned the truth. Like every thirty something, she lived her life taking for granted all the basic luxuries and conveniences that came with living in a developed country – running water, over-stocked mega grocery stores, transportation, smart phones, computers, but most of all – electricity. The day the sun became the enemy, Emily was driving in rush hour traffic from her nine-to-five, heading home to make dinner for herself and to feed her dog. She was irritated and restless. Her boss had given her a hard time about a project she had spent hours perfecting and she was still mulling over a break-up with a guy she dated for a short time, wondering what it was about her that had kept her single most of her adult life. The traffic was heavy, everyone in a hurry to get anywhere, everywhere, and nowhere.
With a deep sigh she flipped on the radio, a habit she outgrew years ago. Driving to and from work had become a refuge; it was the only time her mind was able to quiet, but today, she couldn’t shut off her thoughts. She turned the dial to a pop music station but instead of a song being played or a disc jockey running his mouth, she heard a very serious voice speaking formally to listeners. She turned the radio up.
“…what we are seeing here is one of the largest solar storms in history. If a solar flare produced by the storm and able to reach the sun, the sun will emit a massive burst of gas and magnetic energy – enough to destroy the infrastructure of power grids and cause widespread power outages. While this is the worst case scenario, it is dependent upon the amount of emissions that are able to reach earth. Our planet could be hit partially, fully, or missed completely…”
Emily listened on as the man continued to explain the phenomenon that with words she did not fully understand. Despite his proficiency in speech she could sense uneasiness in his voice.
“What we are trying to do is warn people of the possibility and urging everyone to be prepared. We cannot prevent widespread panic but we are asking everyone to band together…”
Adrenaline spiked her blood stream and now her mind was racing uncontrollably. She could feel her heart thump in her chest and the feeling of dread sat heavy at the bottom of her stomach. She looked at the cars around her. Everyone was at a dead stop. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw that her face had gone completely white, her pupils dilated. She glanced over at the car next to her. The woman in the driver’s seat had the same slack-jawed expression. They made eye contact and held it for a moment. Then the woman began to cry.
It took a week for the world to end. Major grocery outlets were being controlled by the National Guard or local militia groups while local markets were completely looted and burnt down. Goods were now being rationed out to families and individuals as the news made it more apparent that solar flares were imminent and to what extent the earth would be affected, unknown.
The day it happened, Emily stood on her porch sipping a three-finger pour of whiskey. She had quit going to work and stayed home preparing as best as she could. She was done for the day and the day was drawing close to dusk. She had been glued to the television for the past hour as the countdown began. NASA and other scientific organizations had gathered enough information to determine an approximate time that the sun would be impacted by solar flares and confirmed that emissions would reach earth. It was estimated that two-fifths of the globe would become radioactive and that a geomagnetic storm would completely dismantle the infrastructure and operations of every power-grid on earth. Electricity – and life as everyone knew it – would be gone in less than an hour.
Time ticked on as Emily stood on her porch staring at the landscape as the sun hovered in the fall sky and grey-yellow clouds gently folded around it. It was 9:38 pm when it happened. Emily watched as fire orange trails struck the sun’s surface, turning it into an orange glowing eclipse. The sky darkened and the sun appeared to triple in size. Emily blinked against its luminescence until everything grew dim. She watched in awe as the night sky turned into a kaleidoscope of colors. Auroras. Northern lights. Something she had heard about in science classes ages a go and typically occurred in the northern polar region of the globe. But tonight, the northern lights were on full display in Athens, Illinois. Emily stood in still as everything in her house went quiet and the rooms turned dark. Her ego began to dissipate until nothing existed – except the sky.
The months following the coronal mass emissions, millions upon millions of people died from radiation or starvation. Many more died from violence as society seemed to madden and those who survived were only able to on limited supplies. The true survivors were those who were raised with the ability to use the land, to grow crops, can their own goods, and heal the sick. Still, even that existence became impossible as the drought persisted and everything green began to die away. What was once a beautiful glowing blue and green orb was quickly turning into a monochrome version of itself.
No one was prepared for the way the world would actually end. Emily, like everyone else, knew the dangers of war, the possibility of nuclear arms being deployed, the reality of natural resources running out, and the impact of global warming; hot topics heavily debated on news channels and wine fueled dinner parties of the affluent. Ironically, the very thing that gave us life is what took it away.
Cosmic Irony by Heather Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://mujerprolijo.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/cosmic-irony/.
Becoming an established journalist has been my dream since 7th grade. When I moved to Boston, I set my sights high. I was fresh out of Penn State, free of the rural countryside, and the persistent smell of cow manure. I moved into the first apartment I found with running water and a stove that had at least two operating burners. With nothing more than two month’s worth of rent in savings, a suitcase of clothes, and a limited supply of toiletries, I began looking for my first job. My resume was perfect – aesthetically pleasing and focused on my diverse skill set with only minor embellishments showcasing my extra-curricular activities.
When Boston Globe hired me, I was elated. When they assigned me to the Arts and Entertainment section, I could feel the balloon burst. It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I wanted to write hard hitting news stories on political scandals, criminal trials, or global economics. Instead, I found myself semi-conscious at dog shows, wine tastings, and book signings. Luckily, my superior seemed to like my work and I liked her, even though most days I couldn’t look her in the eye or anywhere else for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, she is a mega-babe. Her name is Eva. She’s a tall, curvy Brazilian woman with dark brown hair, and sharp green eyes that could make anyone feel as if she knew all your secrets.
But there was definitely one of mine she did not know. In fact, it’s a secret I’ve done my best to hide from absolutely everyone. Ever since I was a child I’ve had this thing about feet. Not in a sexual way. Unfortunately, whenever I’ve tried to open up to people about issue with feet, they automatically think I’m some sort of foot fetishist. In reality, it’s nothing even close to that. Feet do not turn me on, they just make me…extremely uncomfortable. And when I’m uncomfortable, I laugh. A lot. I mean laughing to the point that my eyes well with tears, my face turns maroon, and I have to hold my stomach for fear that my insides might spill on the floor. What’s worse is that I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about feet that makes them so absurd to me. I’m thinking its the toes and the way they curl into the ground for balance or the fact that they simply look clumsy on the end of most legs. Whatever it is, it’s uncontrollable. Once I start laughing, I can not quit until my entire body aches.
This may not seem like a big deal to most people but it has had huge ramifications in my life. Most girlfriend’s were to insecure to understand that it wasn’t them, it was their feet. As a result, I’ve been single and without sex for nearly a year. Also, there isn’t any type of support group for this sort of thing. I suppose I could see a therapist but without health insurance I could never justify spending hundreds of dollars talking to some old guy about feet. So I keep it to myself and keep my eyes above the waist.
I’d been at the job for a few weeks when feet once again became an issue. I thought journalism would be a safe zone for me but unfortunately, working closely within tight quarters and having a desk placed precisely in the aisle row makes feet an every day concern. Come Monday mornings, I have to mentally prepare myself for the work week ahead. For most people it has everything to do with the workload and deadlines, but for me, it’s all about feet. Not just anyone’s feet, however. Eva’s feet. Every single day, Eva saunters into the office donning a new pair of heels. I found I could contain myself most days; however, on days that she wears peep toe shoes, I have to keep my eyes fixed firmly to my computer screen. I held my breath each morning as she’d stroll by with her tanned hooves shoved into stilettos and two to three toes spilling over the front platform. She would say hello and I’d muster something that vaguely resembled a spoken language as a response. I’m sure I came across as rude, imbecilic, or really into screen-savers. Maybe all of the above.
Monday she wore a sleek black pointed toe heel. No big deal. I made it through another day without incident. But today when I came into the office I noted that the unseasonably warm weather and sure enough, Eva took full advantage of global warming by wearing a pair of red leather peep toe shoes. As I stared into the blank word document on my screen, she casually stops at my desk and requests a one-on-one meeting before lunch. “I have something to run by you,” she said with a smile. I nod as a means of confirmation and gulp in large a bubble of air as she walks away. “Of course she has something to run by me on Peep Toe Tuesday,” I thought and I spent the rest of the morning looking at job openings. “Maybe I should become a postal worker,” I pondered. “Everyone on the job wears reasonable shoes.” As I envision my new career path, I’m interrupted by a ding coming from outlook. It is an email from Eva reading, “I’m available now if you are.”
I walk into the large, sunlit room to find her sitting cross legged in a Barcelona chair adjacent to her desk instead of behind it. “God dammit,” I thought to myself. After greeting her, I nervously put my hands in my pockets and eyed the ceiling as she began to speak to me. “Well, Marcus. I have to say you’ve been doing a wonderful job. I love the last piece you wrote on the Grand Opening of the new boutique on Harrison. I decided it’s time to give you something a little more exciting to write about.”
“Oh, thank you.” Still staring at the ceiling.
“As you know, New York fashion week is approaching in a couple of weeks. A local designer and a dear friend of mine is working on a line. I’d like you to visit her studio as the models are being photographed and fitted into her new collection.”
I shifted my gaze to her face then down to the floor where I stood and back to her face out of nervousness, making every attempt to avoid looking at her feet.
“I have to be quite honest with you, actually. It was a piece I was supposed to write but I can’t bring myself to do it.”
Confused, I managed to maintain eye contact with her.”Can I ask what the problem is, if you don’t mind me asking.” I wanted to know what I was getting myself into.
“Well, the truth is,” she paused and then let out a lyrical giggle, “it’s for a new shoe line and as much as I love her work, I have a problem with feet.” Through her smile and casual demeanor, I could see her face begin to blush.
“What…what kind of problem,” I stammered while maintaining eye contact past the point of awkwardness.
“I don’t have a problem with my feet, it’s just other people’s feet. It’s silly, really. It’s just that whenever I go shoe shopping or am around people bare foot at the beach or gym, I start to giggle uncontrollably. I know it sounds absurd. I just do not want to make a fool of myself…”
She trailed on like this for a few more minute and I looked at her feet. I began to laugh.
“What’s so funny, Marcus?”
“Nothing, I’m sorry,” I said through tears of laughter. Nothing was wrong. I was in love.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
View Writing Prompt: I Can Hear You
In the beginning it felt like a constant hallucination, his consciousness wavering between states of lucid dreaming, sleep paralysis, and fragments of reality that he couldn’t trust. It began with flashing images of dead relatives carrying out the day-to-day mundanities in places that only existed in memories. Surely I must be dead he’d think to himself. The visions continued, followed by intervals of black nothingness; a deep sinking blackness that tugged at his core, entangling his body until his senses were choked out and he was left to drown in his own breath. Eventually, voices began to penetrate the darkness. Voices he couldn’t discern. With every ounce of his will he tried to call out into the darkness but never met his own voice, just the muted tones of others dizzily circling around him. The inability to be heard terrified him. No one was able to save him and he wanted to be saved. The cycle of vivid visions and voices in the void continued to play itself on repeat until he began to reconcile that he was in fact dead and that this was purgatory or some version of hell.
During one of the visions, something strange began to happen. He was seated at his dead grandmother’s kitchen table as he had before when an awareness of his own body emerged that allowed him to interact with this other-worldly plane. A thrill of adrenaline moved through his body as he moved his hand from his lap to the smooth surface of the Formica topped kitchen table. This action appeared to catch his grandmother’s attention and she moved towards where he sat. Without a word, her eyes met his and she smiled as she poured coffee into a familiar oversized mug. He brought his hand to the mug and lifted it close to his face; close enough to smell the freshly brewed beans and faint fragrance of Italian sweet cream. As he brought the brim closer to his lips, the room around him began to slip away and the blackness emerged. And the voices – the voices were loud, distinct, and the smell of coffee lingered. Dammit, I wanted to drink that coffee.
In the blackness, he could hear her now. His mother was nearby and she sounded upset.
“I still can’t find it. I’ve looked everywhere,” she said.
He tried to call out to her.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” grumbled an indifferent voice, the voice of his father. “Here, drink some coffee.”
“I can’t do this anymore, Dom. He’s laid here three months and nothing has changed. I’m losing my mind.”
“The neurologist said he’d be here tomorrow morning to help us with the decision.”
Decision. What decision? Where am I? Frantically, he searched the darkness for their faces. Nothing, he couldn’t find them anywhere. Still, the awareness of his body, his limbs, and racing heart began to lift the fog from his consciousness. He remembered the bridge now. He felt the weight of his chest on the steering wheel as he collided into and past the barricade. He could hear the ugly sounds of metal contorting to the jagged edges of exposed rock before hitting the water, and then nothing. Silence greeted him as the darkness took over. He had been in a car accident.
He felt a tear slide down his face. Am I alive? He struggled to move but couldn’t as he listened to his parents talk without any recognition that he had woke up from the dream. He continued until his body was overcome with exhaustion. He laid there and listened to his mother’s muffled cries, a sound indicative of her being held tightly as she sobbed in embrace.
“We’ve been strong and we will continue to be strong but our options are limited. He can’t stay here like this like a forever. It’s a difficult choice to make but it has to be made.”
His father sounded tired.
His mother cried harder.
What decision did they have to make?
His father continued, “I know you want to do what’s best and carry out his wishes but if we can’t find the paperwork, we have to base our decision off of the facts. I know yesterday that the organ transplant people told us that if we make the decision to end it soon, before his organs start shutting down, his life wouldn’t have been in vain. He can save the lives of others.”
Wait a minute. I’m alive. They can’t rip me to pieces and use my body parts like some sort of Frankenstein experiment. I want to live. I’m alive. I am alive, right? Or am I still dreaming? He became overwrought with panic and could feel his heart start thumping against his chest. Then, a loud echoing beep began.
“Get the nurse, something is happening! Is he waking up?” Next the sound of hurried footsteps drift away, followed by a horde of footsteps coming closer.
“What’s happening,” his mother pleaded.
“His blood pressure and heart rate increased dramatically,” a woman replied.
“Does that mean he can hear us? Is he waking up,” his mother asked hopefully.
“It’s too early to tell. Another scan will be performed tomorrow morning and that will be a better indication of his status, but this could be a good sign. However, I have to keep his blood pressure lower because we do not want him to have a stroke.”
I’m alive. I am alive. He tried to move his lips to tell them. I am alive. He felt a warm hand on his right arm and rush of cool fluids filling the space beneath his skin. Next he heard his mother, who was at his side now, telling him how much she loved him and that everything would be okay. Then everything drifted away as he once again met the darkness.
He woke up inside a treehouse. The one from his childhood, built vicariously into the aged sycamore that used to be in his backyard. It was cool and wet inside, the smell of fresh rain and moisture still hanging heavy in the air. He knew he was dreaming this time because the old tree had been chopped down when he was sixteen years old. Sitting there, he could feel his muscles in his arms voluntarily tense and release. He waved his hand in front of his face. He smiled. Can they see me smile? What if no one was there? His heart jumped in his chest. I don’t have time to dream. I have to get down from here. I have to wake up. He began to panic. He scuffled across the floor to the doorway of the wooden structure and peered down the side of the tree. The steps were missing and the ground was much farther away than he could recall. Without a second thought, he climbed over the latched opening and threw himself out into the air. Upon impact, everything went black once again.
This time the blackness hung onto him like a heavy wool coat worn unseasonably early. He couldn’t escape it and this time, he felt pain although he couldn’t localize it to his own body. He waited for the voices as he patiently rode the waves of pain coursing through his body. He drifted along until a voice pulled at him to wake up.
“It doesn’t make sense. If he has no significant brain activity, how could he fall out of the bed,” his mother wondered aloud.
“I’ll be honest, ma’am. We’ve never seen anything like this before. As I told you earlier today, the only activity we’ve observed is occurring in the brainstem, the part of the brain that performs basic functions to maintain life. At the time of the incident, his brain activity was being closely monitored and yes, there was approximately a 78 second occurrence of significant cerebellar involvement – just enough for him to fall out of bed.”
“Fall? How does someone who hasn’t opened his eyes or lifted a finger in three months happen to ‘fall’ out of bed? People in comas don’t fall!”
“Mrs. Talbot, please calm down. As I said before, this is unlike anything we’ve seen. We’ve monitored him closely since the incident and it appears that it was a strong enough neurological impulse that caused him to roll over and off the bed. Unfortunately, now we are back at baseline but his condition is worsening. At this point we believe he will never be able to breathe again on his own.”
I’m alive! It wasn’t the treehouse, it was my bed. I can hear them. I can smell the doctor’s offensive aftershave. I’m thinking these thoughts, why aren’t those appearing on this monitor he’s talking about? He could feel his face grow hot with rage.
“I know Shaun wouldn’t want to be like this. It’s no way to live. He was always such a brilliant young man. So much promise,” she began to sob through her words.
Mom, no. Don’t give up on me. He tried to scream. No, mom. I’m here! Please don’t let me go.
“Well, Mrs. Talbot, all the proper paperwork is in place. When you and your family are ready, we can obtain the final signatures and you and your husband can choose to stay here for the process or remain out of the room.”
“Our son is a vegetable,” he heard his father say.
Fuck you dad. I’m alive.
“Dom! Don’t refer to him like that. He’s still our son.” He heard her take a deep breath and through tears she said, “I think it’s time to go through with the process.”
Process? Are they going to fucking kill me? If there is no chance, why the fuck can I hear them? How can I feel so angry if I’m a fucking vegetable? Vegetables don’t get angry!
The machine began to alarm again. The doctor assured his mother again that it was an autonomic response related to the injuries he sustained and that he couldn’t hear them. He heard their footsteps leave the room and followed by the sound of only one set return. Sounds of switches being turned flipped and lines being pulled from his body began. He wanted to howl, to do anything to tell them that he was still there, but he felt exhausted. All he could do was cry. As the tube was pulled from his throat and as he slowly began to sink back into the deep darkness, he felt a hand brush the tears from his face. Then nothing.
Until there was something. Amber light began to creep into the corner fields of his vision, covering his body in warmth as it replaced the darkness with light. He blinked his eyes open and into focus to see his grandmother standing there wiping the tears from his face.
“Don’t cry, honey. We have so much to talk about. Here, you can finally enjoy your cup of coffee.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.