Prompted Writing | The Night That Stayed

Twitter is a place of miracles, wonder and, let’s be honest, a lot of shameless self-promotion (you know who you are).

However, I somehow managed to get myself followed by a whole bunch of really interesting people who I am able to communicate with about all sorts of stuff (ok, mostly writing and books) without anyone trying to sell the other person anything.

This evening, for example, I asked to be prompted for a story to write. Two very nice people responded.

Beth Wodzinski with a simple image:

the-red-baron-and-his-dog-e1351186139910

And Josh Hanagarne with the following:

So here goes. I’m writing this in a single go, with only the automatic spell-check to help.

The End of the World, Seen With a Child’s Innocence

The people had always been nice to him, the ones in the white coats all the way up to the ones with the special suits and the dark glasses. He’d never been far outside the base and the surrounding desert and he didn’t want to; home was right here.

His parents explained to him once what it was everyone was doing but the words were too big and didn’t fit. Puzzle pieces that didn’t belong together. So they stopped trying to explain and slowly they stopped worrying about him too much. Or caring. Jonathan walked around freely, and was allowed, or at least tolerated in most places around the bunker, even the deep secret ones under the ground. He liked riding the big elevator down into the metal rooms, and it was in one of them he met Peter.

Peter had a blue uniform with medals on it and he greeted Jonathan with a smile. The next time Jonathan saw him was up in one of the hangers. Jonathan was watching the planes take off, planes that carried serious men with black briefcases to and from the base. Peter came in alone in a small plane, small and shiny. He set it down without the wheels twisting up any smoke like the others did and then drove it quickly into the hanger. He open the domed glass of the cockpit and climbed down a ladder. He was dressed in a leather jacked with what seemed like fur around the collar, and he took off his aviator goggles and waved to Jonathan.

“Some day I’ll take you with me, show you how it’s done. Would you like that?”

“Why, yes sir, I would.”

“Tomorrow will be your first lesson then.”

Peter did as he promised. He explained what everything in the plane did, how the controls worked and for the first time in Jonathan’s sheltered life something clicked. Puzzle pieces that fit. He understood why a plane was lifted off the ground if it went fast enough, and why dipping to the side would make it turn.

Peter had a talk with his parents, who found it odd that he was spending so much time with Jonathan, and as Jonathan tip-toed close to listen he caught something he didn’t understand about his brother being “special too in that way. I mean your son no harm, and it is not completely unselfish of me to spend time with him like this. They put my brother away, you see, in an awful house and every time I visit he remembers me less. He is like Jonathan, a serious child trapped in a man’s body, a little older, but it’s the same. I tend to think of your Jonathan as what my brother might have been, had someone cared.”

His parents had a look about them that Jonathan had learned to respond to with a hug. But he was afraid that they were going to ban him from flying with Peter again so he went to the elevator and the guards knew enough that security clearance was not something to discuss with the boy and so they let him through.

He was on his way down, alone, when the lights flickered and Jonathan felt a deep concussion in the earth. The elevator slowed, the lights went off and a dim yellow light came on instead. The elevator stopped and the doors opened. People were running about and shouting to each other. Jonathan found himself a small nook in one of the rooms and fell asleep, even with all the noise.

The world had changed when he woke up. The corridors were full of debris, as if a small storm had gone through and thrown everything about. The corridors were long and metallic and still only lit with dim yellow bulbs.

“Hello?”

He pressed the button for elevator but it didn’t come so he went to the stairs. After walking up two flights he saw the first dead person he had ever seen in his life. It was a woman, sitting in a corner with her hands by her side and a large hole in her head. He stood and looked at her for a while but felt little about her death, either way. He didn’t know what he was supposed to feel so he carried on walking up the stairs.

It was dark outside, an odd starless darkness with lightning in the distance. The air smelled strange and most of the people were gone. He saw more dead people, but still wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel about them. He just hoped nobody was watching him, wondering why he didn’t feel one way or another. He wondered where his parents were, and if he would know how to feel if he saw them dead.

He went into their apartment and into his room and closed the door. He would wait for morning, and then surely someone would find him. But morning didn’t come. He slept again and then checked his watch but it must have broken when the lights went out because it said that it should be daytime now. He went out again and saw more dead people, and more lightning in the distance. His skin itched.

He walked to Peter’s plane, which stood in an open hanger, half-full of fuel and ready to go. He looked for Peter and found him but then just went back to the plane. He want back to Peter and took his jacket and his pilot’s hat and went back and sat in the plane. No one was walking and he didn’t hear anything but distant thunder so he turned the engine on, just to have something new to listen to.

He flew off into the daylight darkness, just like Peter had taught him to, though his flying was nowhere as smooth as Peter’s. He wondered if he would miss his parents. He flew towards the lightning, because everything else was darkness, but he turned away because he was sure the lightning would be bad for the plane. After three hours of flying and thinking about the concussion he heard in the elevator he saw that the fuel was running low so he landed the plane in a field of dry grass.

It must have been windy, because the grass was all bent low along the ground, pointing in a single direction. A dog came up to him, hesitant and slow, and sniffed at Jonathan’s hand. He scratched him under his chin and hoped that they would be friends, but the dog ran off.

Jonathan walked towards the lightning, and hoped someone would be there.

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