Friday, September 30, 2016

Writing at the Speed of Light

Sometimes I think too much. That should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. Sometimes, I spend all my time thinking and not enough doing. that's why I spend three months planning a story, then I spend weeks or months working on it.

Sometimes, maybe, I need to stop planning, stop thinking, and just do it, right now. And thus, High Speed Stories were born.

The rules are simple: there is a time limit. Now, I've written 50,000 words in a month, that's easy cake oven. No, I'm talking a real time limit.

One hour.

That's one hour to come up with characters, setting, etc., and write the damn thing. Can it be done? We'll find out. The plan is to go to my list of writing prompts, set a timer, and go.

So the prompt was:
Every inhabitable surface on Earth is overcrowded with skyscrapers. The owner of the topmost floor has exclusive access to sunlight.
Did I write a story from that in an hour? Why yes, I did. 55 minutes, technically. Is it great? No, but it's done. And that's the first step. Is it even any good at all? I don't know, you be the judge.
I was born in the dark.

I grew up in the dark, and lived my whole life in the dark. I heard stories of the sun, but that’s all they were. Stories. No one I knew had ever seen it. Not my parents, not my grandparents. Probably not even my great grandparents.

We were 10th Floorers. We always had been. It could be worse. We could be 1st Floorers. Or Subterraneans. It could also be much better. Word was that the 100th Floorers were the top. Word was, they had the sun. And there was no way they were giving it up.

I spent 19 years on the 10th Floor. We could move up and down a bit, but we always went home to 10. If you went up too high, the residents would turn up their noses and call for security, and you’d be forcibly descended. The trick was to climb the stairs without being noticed. We were getting better at that. Evren and I made it all the way up to 43 once. A 44ther came out to dump something down the trash chute and spotted us. She could tell we didn’t belong. She threw her trash at us for good measure before calling security. After all, we were only trash to her.

I went to Evren, sometime after that. “We could make it all the way,” I said.

He stared at me in the dim yellow light. “That’s crazy, Shai.”

“Is it? Who says we have to stay down here our whole lives? Who decides that we never get to see the sun?”

“No one sees the sun. It’s just a myth. The lights just get brighter the higher you go, that’s all. There’s no supreme light source somewhere.”

“Fine, I’ll go alone.” I turned to go.

He closed his eyes and sighed. “Wait. Someone has to keep you from doing something stupid.”

“Isn’t that all we do?”

“Fine, then someone has to keep you from getting caught doing something stupid.”

We climbed the stairs to 20, no problem. On 21, security was patrolling downward. I cracked the door to 20. Too many people, we’d be seen. Ten floors up was farther than we should wander.

“Shai, this way,” Evren hissed, yanking my arm.

He had the trash chute hatch open and was trying to shove me into it. Inside, there was a tiny ledge that we could stand on while the hatch closed. It was a great plan, as long as no one opened the hatch. We could hear footsteps right outside. They paused on the landing. We held our breath.

The footsteps started again, heading down the stairs. After a few seconds, Evren eased open the hatch and we continued our climb.

30, 40, 50. We had never been this high before.

60, 70. There would be serious consequences if we were caught this far from home.

80. A door opened below us and someone headed up the stairs. We started running. It was not the quietest way to go but we couldn’t give up now. The lights in the stairwell grew steadily brighter the higher we climbed. It reached the point that we had to squint to even see where we were going.

90. As we passed the landing, the door opened and a man walked out. He stepped back, startled at the sight of two Lower Floor teenagers running past him.

“Security!” he shouted.

We were already one floor up by the time he reacted, but we were slowing down. Climbing eighty-one flights of stairs will do that.

As we passed 93, the door opened and a security officer lunged at us. I sidestepped and threw myself up the stairs. Evren did not. The officer tackled him to the floor, smacking his head on the next step.

I stopped halfway up the flight and turned back.

He looked up at me with blood running down his forehead. “Go, Shai! Go!”

I turned and I ran. I left behind the best friend I’d ever had, bleeding on the floor. And I ran.

The stairs ended at the 100th Floor. Having nowhere else to go, I tore open the door and ran down the hall. At the far end, I could see another flight of stairs. I could also see two security officers between me and it.

There was no stopping now. I ran for one officer and threw my whole weight into him. Admittedly, that wasn’t a lot of force, but it caught him off guard and he went down. I grabbed a baton off his belt and swung it at the other officer.

This was it. I was on the stairs. Everyone was shouting behind me. I didn’t look back.

I reached the top of the stairs and threw open the door.

The brightest light I had ever seen stabbed my eyes. I stumbled through the door and fell to my knees. Cool air blew across my skin. Though I could barely see, I could tell that this was an open space. There were no walls, no ceiling. As my eyes started to adjust, someone grabbed me from behind and pulled me back toward the door.

I looked up and saw the brightest blue, stretching as far as the eye could see.

And straight above me, blinding the eyes born in darkness…

I saw the sun.

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