I had an idea that I wanted to write a super-short story. Less than 300 words, akin to Frederic Brown’s masterpiece (Quoted in it’s entirety here) “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”
Mine is not quite so short, nor so eloquent. However, I wanted to write a super-short. So I posed the question to Laura, “Hey. Wanna write a short story under 300 words?” She took me up on it, and we each came up with one.
Kirk 294 words:
Tim Johnson woke from his slumber. Just like every morning for the seven thousand two hundred ninety-nine days, it was quarter past seven in the morning. He went through his daily routine like an automaton. Wash his face. Shave. Run on the treadmill for two hours, feeding the electricity generated into the battery banks of The Underark.
Tomorrow was the twentieth anniversary of the day the dead rose from their graves and ate the living. Tomorrow was the twentieth anniversary of his time in his bunker, and true to his calculations, today was the last day he could survive in The Underark. He had topped off the hydroponics tank with the last five gallons of reserve water two weeks ago. Just the tips of the roots touched today.
That afternoon, Tim climbed the ladder to the surface, and shoved on the hatch. Years of dirt and debris were probably piled on top, he thought as he shoved a little harder.
He heard a scream that brought him back to his life before The Underark, from when things on earth were so terrible, so horrible that he’d closeted himself away. As his head crested the surface, bathed in sunlight for the first time in two decades, a man wearing a “Grill Master” apron and holding tongs ran towards him.
“I told you, Daddy! I told you there was a man coming out of the ground!”
“Who are you!” yelled the man.
“Tim Johnson. This is my house, who are you?”
“Joe Witherspoon. I’ve lived here for twenty years, this is my house.”
“How? The zombies…”
“Oh, that? Yeah, they all crumbled to dust within two days. Bunch of people died, including you, Tim. I bought the house at an estate sale about a month afterward.”
A bright light. That’s always how it started. A bright light and the sharp clacking of high heels on linoleum and what came next was never anything good. Then came the headaches – the mind numbing headaches.
He felt like his neck was on a hinge and his head only needed to be unlatched for his brain to be accessed. She would tear him open and rip his flesh off to find his core. It had been done so often that it wasn’t even painful when then slammed his skull full of sharp, spiky metal. Her prying hands worked quickly and expertly in his brain, filling him with that damned foreign object.
Then, he would be left alone. The world was silent for now, but it never lasted long. Soon, there would be shrieks of childish glee as the woman tried to contain the new madness. At times, he was glad he was rarely on the receiving end of her sharp tone that he often heard. He was a dim creature and never said a word to anyone.
His job, although he hated it, was simple. Anything that was placed between his teeth, he had to bite into, then release. The one rule: never swallow. His body had been torn apart more than once for forgetting that one rule, but he was getting old now. It was impossible for him to remember everything.
There was a small stack of white papers that was placed into his mouth and he felt the sharp smack of the woman’s hand on his head and he bit down…and then released. And he would continue to do just the same until he was placed back in his little box and she turned the lights off.
Life is hard when you’re a stapler.
There you have it. Two shorts, very different, from two authors who work together regularly. What do you think? Want to write one? Leave me a comment!