Fast Fiction: After the Apartment Building Tumbled Down

Hello everyone,

It’s time for another of my pre-scheduled blog posts of fast fiction from my monthly writers group’s warming up exercises. Here’s a quick recap of what this is all about. For more on the whole premise, check out this post:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random during one of my monthly writers’ group meetings. I will label that prompt at the top and where I use it in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

Rule #5: I have all these posts set up to go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am on a Sunday. I reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.

And that’s it. Here we go.

Prompt:

There was no more blood, though she could feel it crusted inside her head.

The earthquake hit at 3:13 am, or at least that’s what she surmised with the power of the book of matches she kept in the bedside drawer.

When she came to, she did not know up from down, left from right, top from bottom, but she could feel her shoulders up against the dresser: She opened the drawer, struck a match, and for ten terrifying seconds she saw the arch of her tortured mattress above her shielding her from God knows what. She saw the battered ruins of her apartment tipped over sideways and down towards a yawning nothingness, and she saw her grandmother’s clock broken, staring up at her from a ledge below her that used to be part of the elevator shaft. The hands were pointed at 3:13, and they did not move. Either the earthquake happened at 3:13, or at some other time and the broken hands chose 3:13 in the collapse. She did not have time to decide before the match burned down to her fingers, and she cursed, “Shit!”Dropping the fluttering ember down, down, down a hole in the rubble until either the spark was lost or blown out. She didn’t know.

Her mouth tasted of copper and her ears rang and her sinuses felt swollen, but when she pawed at her face in the newly fallen darkness she could not feel the wet of a wound.

There was no more blood, though she could feel it crusted inside her head.

She reached for another match, feeling out how many were left in the book. Four. Not enough.

She struck a new match, looking around for the candlestick holder that had sat on the bedside for years, keeping her company at night as she read a book by its light, cozy and warm.

No candlestick.

Nowhere.

It had rolled away in the earthquake that had tipper her world over on its side as her building canter over and tumbled down the side of the ravine whose view she had paid extra for when she moved in.

Thank God she’d been in bed.

The new match burned down to her fingers again. “Shit!” She said again, letting this one too fall away from her and down, down, down, through angles and edges and faces that once had been perpendicular or parallel but now could not boast a single right angle.

“Hello?” She called out. “Anyone? Anyone out there?”

Where was out there? She didn’t know. In two matches she hadn’t seen a door or a window, only the hole below her and the tortured arching mattress above, and the ruins of her world in disarray.

“Can anyone hear me?” She wailed, long and loud, her voice muted by the blood in her ears, up her nose, in the corners of her mouth, down her throat.

“Yes!” A voice called from the direction of her dislocated left shoulder. Why was she only realizing her shoulder was out of its socket? Was she in shock? “I hear you. Help is on the way!” The voice promised.

She smiled, feeling the grit of dried blood on her teeth, then her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and she passed out again.

Note: So I was very proud of this one when I first wrote it in the span of ten or fifteen frantic minutes. I read about a man trapped in a collapsed building following a landslide once in James Clavell’s Noble House, and I enjoyed taking a crack at the premise. The prompt spoke of a lack of new blood, but old blood crusted up inside a woman’s head. My mind went to ‘waking up after an earthquake,’ and I was off to the races.

I’m pleased with how I described the shattered interior of the apartment building.

I’m pleased with how I described her mental state.

I am very unhappy that in the final seconds of the exercise I gave her a dislocated shoulder after having her light a couple of matches –something that would need both hands– as well as feeling the dresser against her shoulder and feeling herself up and down with her hands to check for bleeding. I was inconsistent with her injury, and I think that does rob the thing of some of its spark. I’m also a little unhappy with that second monstrous paragraph. I could have broken that up into pieces more coherently. This was a first draft in fifteen minutes, but it was not flawless. Ah, well.

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