I wrote from the locked room prompt today. There were a lot of ideas that came to me, but I went with this, which is (in a way) a retelling of a story I first wrote some years ago about my mother’s mental breakdown (very shortly after the birth of my 2nd child). I’m not sure what precisely it was about the prompt that led me in this direction, but I am rather glad it did.
Locked Room (429 words)
Alex turns over and lies on her side, but the floor is hard and unyielding. Facing in this direction now, she sees that there is more than just the dirty wall that was facing her previously. Now she can see that there is a cot, a bed really, just not one she would normally choose to sleep on.
And in the other corner, just barely in her sight, she can see the edge of a door.
None of this really helps.
Why is she here?
She still feels chilled and it looks like there is a blanket, or at least a sheet, on the cot. She crawls towards it.
Pulling the blanket down, she wraps it around herself. She is still uncomfortable, but at least she is now warm.
How? And where was she before?
She would, if asked, confess that the entirety of her memory, all that she can currently call to mind, is what is contained in this grubby cube.
Somehow, she falls asleep.
This time, she does not dream. Or, more properly put, if she does dream, she remembers nothing of it as she awakes.
And then she remembers.
Them. They were looking for her. Because she had done something very, very wrong.
What, though? Heat flooded through her, a sense of shame. It had been something terrible. Very bad.
She turned over onto her back. Maybe she should try the bed. The floor was so hard.
It turned out that the bed was not much better.
She was so cold. Why was she here? She had done something. But what?
The police. They were going to get her.
Was that why she was here? Had they found her?
She turned to her other side, shivering.
Why was she thinking of her? She was an adult now, didn’t need her anymore.
Her daughter’s house.
They had gone to visit. But why? They didn’t often. They had moved far away.
Right, the baby. Her daughter had given birth to a son. Something she had, over and over and over again failed to do.
Her daughter sitting and holding the little, squalling bundle. Her husband smiling kindly at the pair of them, asking the kindly, grandparently questions.
She had sat, her eyes downcast. Her fingers moving, tips rubbing against each other. A string, where was the string?
She was pulled from her reverie by a noise, a clanking.
The door creaked ever so slightly open.
A white clad man stepped in, just a little.
“You are awake then?” he asked.
She nodded, she supposed.
I went with today’s prompt, although my story did not develop in the way that I had hoped/intended. My original intent had more of a sense of urgency to it than what I ended up with. And I was thinking more weird/funny for the parent’s profession, but it didn’t happen. I’m not actually unhappy with the story I wrote, but I’m a bit uncertain about it.
This Time (691 words)
“You won’t forget, will you?”
He had sounded skeptical. He knew his mom.
“Of course I won’t forget.”
“But will you be there?”
“I promise that I will try my very best.”
She didn’t know if he actually sighed or not. She might have imagined it. It might have been a sigh from a past exchange just like this.
And now here she was, six hours later and she was looking at the clock and back at her computer and wondering how on earth she was going to get to the school for 6:30.
6:30, which was, she thought, an absolutely ridiculous time for a talent show to begin.
But it did.
She had to be there. She could not let Tyler down again. He used to just laugh it off — his mom, that busy that she couldn’t manage to be there for the holiday concert or the Earth Day carnival or whatever. But in the last year or so that had changed. He was getting older now and she knew that he felt it more now than before.
And he would only be young for so long.
“Yes?” She looked towards the door. Her assistant was standing, hesitantly it seemed, just inside the room.
“Howard wants to see your latest draft.”
“Well, Howard is going to have to wait.”
Ann shifted her weight from foot to foot. “He really wants it.”
“Then that is really his problem.”
“I know, Ann. I’m sorry. But I have to leave in,” her eyes flicked to the screen to check the time, “45 minutes. Not a minute later.”
“Really?” Ann almost squeaked in reply. “Howard isn’t going to be happy. Are you sure?”
“Do you think I would have said it if I wasn’t?”
“I suppose not.”
“Of course not.”
“Is it urgent?”
“Tyler is doing magic tricks in the school talent show.”
“Is that urgent?”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t have kids.”
“It’s urgent this time. I’ve missed way too many things lately. I don’t care what Howard thinks. He’s not my child.”
“Fair enough,” Ann said faintly and quickly left.
Julia exhaled and her eyes went back to the screen. She had been working on this story for months. It would figure that it would all come to a heard today of all days. But if it wasn’t today, there would be something else. There always was.
She didn’t know what she was doing.
There was little left to do with this draft, in fact. She probably could have just handed it over when Ann asked but it was the principle of the thing.
She tried to remember what it had been like to be excited to do this job, but the feeling was just out of her grasp.
Forty minutes now.
She got to the end. It was good, if she said so herself. It was a deep investigative piece. Months of her life considering health and safety conditions in local restaurants.
Maybe it wasn’t good, but it was well written, damn it.
She shook her head and wondered where the political scandals were.
Why did this take precedence over magic tricks?
What was she thinking?
She saved the file, attached it to an email and sent it off to Howard. Then she quickly quit the open programs and shut down the computer.
“Where are you off to?”
“I have to go, Howard.”
“I don’t think so. Not yet.”
“I just sent you the story.”
“Then we need to go over it, don’t we?”
Julia looked down at her watch. She had to leave in the next five minutes.
Howard just stared at her.
“I have to go.”
“No, we have to finish this.”
“Howard. We have been working on this for months. It won’t matter.”
“Where are you going?”
She didn’t want to tell him. She didn’t want to say.
“My son’s talent show.”
“How long is it?”
“I don’t know. An hour, maybe, less than two I’m sure.”
“Then come back after.”
She wanted to tell him that that was ridiculous. She wanted to yell.
“Fine” was what she said. “I’ll be back by nine.”