Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What Lurks in the Darkness?

All right, I've "finished" "Losing Daylight." And I'm not feeling it. I'm not good at building tension, it seems. Not to mention, there was world building to be done that there just wasn't room for. So it doesn't really make any sense. I mean, yes, it could be longer. It's nowhere near the max word count. But there's nothing else to happen. He's just… waiting the whole time. I don't think I can fix it enough to appeal to a wider audience, so I'll just share the rough draft with you here, as promised.

Losing Daylight

It had been noon for two hundred years.

For two hundred years, the Meridian, a vast airship, had circled the globe, and for two hundred years, it had kept two thousand people safe in the daylight.

On the upper decks, the sun glinted off the iridescent blue of the photovoltaic cells and shone in through the windows. The lower fins skimmed through cirrocumulus clouds. As for me, I made my rounds of decks 3 through 7, as I did every day. It was an important job, they said, maintaining the peace. You didn’t want fights breaking out at 40,000 feet.

The floor shuddered. I grabbed a door frame to steady myself.

“What was that?” someone asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t know. Nothing, I’m sure.”

Ten minutes later, one of the bridge officers hurried down the corridor. He pointed at me. “You. With me.”

“Aye, sir.” Two decks down, I asked, “Where are we going?”

“Engine room.”

“Oh.” I had spent my entire life on the Meridian, and I’d only been in the engine room once on a school trip. “What do you need me for?”

“You have the skills we need.” He led me down a corridor.

“Isn’t the engine room back the other way?”

“Yes, it is. But the armory is this way.”

“What exactly is happening in the engine room?”

He dragged me into the armory and closed the door. “I don’t want to cause a panic, so you’d better keep this to yourself. The engine is failing. We’re losing altitude.”

“What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to land.”

“Land?” The word came out an octave higher than I’d meant it to. “We can’t land!”

“We can, and we will. It’s the only way to make the repairs.”

“So you want me to keep people calm, maintain the peace?”

“Not exactly.” He took a giant rifle from the case and handed it to me. “I want you out on the ground.”

We made our way the rest of the way down to the engine room. Outside the windows, the clouds rose higher until we dropped below them entirely. Below, a vast ocean gave way to a brown continent that grew closer at an alarming rate.

The Meridian jolted to a stop on solid ground. Panicked screams echoed through the corridors and then, silence. The constant hum of the engine was gone.

I, along with several engineers, climbed out a maintenance hatch under the engine room. Dust leapt up in tiny clouds as my boots hit the dirt. I kicked at it, sending more dust flying.

“Okay, we’ve got eight hours,” one of the engineers said.

“Until what?” I asked.


I shifted the rifle nervously. “That’s just a myth, though, right?”

“Why do you think we always stay under the sun?”

I pointed up at the vast airship above us. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe because we’re solar powered?”

“Sure, that’s the only reason.” He jerked his chin out at the barren landscape. “Just watch our back. That’s what you’re here for.”

They worked and I paced back and forth, scanning the horizon. There was nothing.

Hours passed. I sat down on a rock. “I don’t think there’s anything out there.”

One of the engineers peered down from his perch on the giant propeller and pointed to the East. “What’s that then?”

I squinted. “Clouds? A storm, maybe?”

I had never seen a storm from this angle, from underneath. It darkened the sky on the horizon and the precursing wind kicked up the dust around me. I clutched the rifle for all the good it would do me against the weather.

As the storm grew closer, I could see rain and flashes of lightning. Something rumbled in the distance.

I called up to the engineers. “You guys about done?”

“Another hour, maybe,” a voice called down.

Finally, they finished their repairs and headed back to the maintenance hatch.

“So you’re done?” I asked. “We can get the hell out of here?”

“We’ll have to fire it up and see,” an engineer said.

 A flash of lightening lit up the darkening sky, followed by a sound like the earth cracking open. I jumped.

“It’s just electricity,” the engineer shouted over the rising wind.


“The sound. Lightning always does that. You just can’t hear it up there with the engine running.”

I looked out at the dark horizon as the engineers climbed back into the ship. Something else moved in the distance. Something big. Something with wings.

Feel free to post any feedback or thoughts you might have. I'll take all the constructive criticism I can get.

Of course this means I'll have to write another story to submit for publication. But I still have a week. Plenty of time. I'll see you Friday.


  1. I think this is a fun prompt and I sort of want to write it myself. Ever since you introduced it a few posts ago, I've thought about its potential. I agree that the tension is mellow here, but I think it wouldn't take much to build it up with your characters anxiety. Maybe a legend or story that's been said echos in his mind, or another guard could torment him. Just some thoughts. Also when you mentioned something flying with wings, I thought "and?" he should see something scary, something demonic, something that curdles his blood. Still, I love your writing style. I missed what your word count was supposed to be but I think you've definitely accomplished something in such a short piece.

  2. It's a solid base, but it's obviously only half-baked. With a little more work I'm sure you'd have it where you want it.
    Backstory should be like seasoning: it enhances the story your telling, but the real meat of your story is the character in the moment. We want more. This is not only a bizarre situation for him (that he's obviously under-qualified for), but he's on the ground for the first time ever! Fleshing him out while contrasting with the fear of those around him, that may heat up the story without giving away whatever is in the darkness - cause really, what's scarier than things that go bump in the night?
    Gotta say, it's a sign of a good writer if the answer is "add more" rather than "change it".

  3. I want to read more of this story. What are the people on the ship doing? It must be an awful surprise for them to see the earth so close. And how does it feel to step out onto solid ground for the first time, ever. What is the legend? Your character has special skills, but we don't know what they are or how they were achieved. If he has skills, he must know the legend and be prepared for the beast with the wings...
    Neat story. I want MORE.