Contest #115 shortlist ⭐️

26 comments

Fiction Sad Friendship

“My time is almost up”

I looked to the clock again. The numbers burned bottle green in the dark of my city cubicle. 

“Two minutes left.” 

Two minutes of life. Two minutes of breath. Two minutes of me. What to do with the time? 

I’ve known it was coming for a while now. My body was slowing, I missed the output quotas more often than not. They wouldn’t let me keep going like this, slowing down the entire system.

“Mhm” came the staticky response from the other end of the line. I didn’t know what they looked like. I didn’t know what anyone looked like. Life in the generator was like that. But, I knew them. I would miss them more than anything else. If I could miss anything when it happened. If there was anything left. 

“Will you stay with me? Until it's over I mean?” 

“As long as I can” 

I nodded, the lump of icy fear in my stomach softened a bit. 

“Do you think it will hurt?” I asked.

“No. You’ll fall asleep first. It will be like every other day. Like logging off. You just won’t… restart.”

“I wish I’d done more. Achieved something greater. You know?”

“We all do.”

“I guess you’re right. I just wish— “

The clock changed. The console crackled, the line went dead. Alone now.

My breath came out in a white puff. The temperature was dropping already, gooseflesh peppered my arms. 

I took solace in the fact that everything I could see would be recycled, every part repurposed. The console would be stripped bare, thermoplastic coating peeled away to reveal shining copper. Gears and chips would be plucked out. Metal casing would be melted and reformed. 

My body would be treated just the same. The cold would preserve the still functioning parts, cut from me and presented to the surface dwellers who needed something new. I hoped it would give them what I would never have; something more. 

More time. 

More love. 

More life.

I looked at my hands. Thin and trembling, but strong. I wondered who these pieces of me would become. Maybe a leader, someone whose speeches require grand gesticulation, someone who brings peace and justice to the masses. Maybe a mother, whose soft embrace warms the heart like melted chocolate. Or an artist whose creation lights up the world— god knows, we need it.

I sucked in a ragged, bracing breath. A keening sound echoed in the small space as cold tightened the structure of my cubicle, my home. The only place I’d ever known. The only place I would ever know.

I placed my palm against my chest, holding the final vestiges of warmth like thin strands of smoke that leaked through my fingers. Would this heart remember? Would they know that I often drew pictures of the sunset I’d never seen, and that I dreamed of the ocean? That I had loved another fiercely without ever seeing them, without even knowing their name? No.

The only thing that would not be recycled was me.  

This cog would be replaced, the industry wouldn’t slow for even a beat. But, I would be gone. 

The air tightened around me. White crept across the console now. I’d never seen anything like it. Beautiful, crystalline fractals spidered out from the corners. 

I named it— frost, rime. They had once described it to me and I had seen it so clearly then. They had told me many things here in the dark, and in this way, I had lived a rich life. 

They told me about the ocean. The way the sun danced across the whipped waves, sparkling and roaring in places, glassy and cool in others. The way it teemed with rainbows of living creatures, all working in harmony and balance. I liked to think I was the same, part of something bigger, something more important than this

They told me about the sunset. When the world burned orange and pink, no heat, just the light extending its goodbye for the day by painting every surface gold, sweet, and shimmering. I pictured my goodbye as warm and lovely, a final burst of the joy I had known, had found despite the dark corners that housed me. 

I thought I would feel light, and float away like cottonwood seeds on the breeze. I’d never seen those either, but they had whispered of them to me one night.

Instead, I grew heavier with every precious breath. My legs stopped first, stuck and stiff as the chrome of the cubicle. 

Less than a minute now. 

My fingers were next. They stopped their shaking, and lay pale against my chest. 

My neck sunk into immobility as I lay my head back. 

I closed my eyes, they wouldn’t open again. I didn’t want to see anything but the ocean now, and the sunset. 

By the time the cold found my heart, the beats taking on the same weight as my limbs, I wasn’t there. I would never be there again.


***


The lamplight popped into the bulbs as the sun melted against the waves. A small girl, bundled in a thick scarf like a messy ball of yarn, ran through the fallen leaves towards the pier. Her mother called after her, an indulgent smile turned her lips. 

Duck yellow wellies squeaked as she skid to a halt against the wet surface, craning against the railing to watch the gurgling surf below. The wind pulled tickling strands from her swinging braids, and the light spray pasted them against her ruddy cheeks. Jubilant laughter bubbled up as her mother scooped her into her arms. 

In the very corner of the pier, closest to the ocean and in full view of the sunset, one lamp sputtered. It was only a flicker, nothing unusual or concerning about it. The girl looked up, frightened by the brief darkness. 

With soothing caresses and tender whispers, her mother smoothed the moment away like a divet in the tide.

As they walked back up the pier together, the girl looked back at the verdigris-stained plaque at the base of the lamp.

City Power Grid: bringing renewable energy to your home and streets for generations.

October 15, 2021 17:20

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26 comments

Claire Simmons
06:53 Oct 28, 2021

Your story is great!

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J. J. Fauria
23:26 Oct 27, 2021

Very Nice Story! You're very Talented.

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22:09 Oct 27, 2021

The “end” or last moments of a being is always so interesting to me when reading different author’s views, how some make them violent, others make them graceful. This ending was like a soft sad goodbye, with the protag regretting not being around to be a part of the bigger story, to not be there at all. I really enjoyed this, it made me do a lot of thinking after I was done. Thank you for sharing this, you have a wonderful voice.

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James R
20:00 Oct 25, 2021

Tears to my eyes, I love this so dearly. You have a true talent, thank you for this

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Liam Murphy
19:49 Oct 25, 2021

Hi B.J. I really loved your story and the very different slant you took on the prompt theme of disconnection. Outage was beautifully written, and your prose style is gorgeous. The story is quite Dystopian until the last lines where you brought in the little girl and her mother, which was a lovely, though unexpected, end to the piece. B.J. You possess a rare and beautiful gift. You are a very seriously talented wordsmith and storyteller. Liam

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Tommie Michele
22:43 Oct 22, 2021

Wow, this story hits hard. The themes you touched on, the sweet ending—your writing is incredible. Well-deserved shortlist!

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Amanda Lieser
19:03 Oct 22, 2021

Hi B.J, This was such a great take on the prompt! I really identified with the main character and felt that you captured their perspective very well. I thought also love how you described daily things like the sunset and ocean. Your ending was just perfect! Thank you for writing this story and congratulations on getting shortlisted.

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Beth Jackson
17:28 Oct 22, 2021

Wow! What an amazing story. Congratulations! :-)

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Patrick Samuel
11:57 Oct 22, 2021

Beautiful and sad and ultimately horrific. Like a cross between "Never Let Me Go" and "Soylent Green".

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Karen Mc Dermott
09:14 Oct 21, 2021

I was getting 1984 vibes from this at the beginning and I liked where you took it - to somewhere far more original than I would've suspected. Nice job, and thanks for sharing.

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Bj Hall
20:31 Oct 21, 2021

What a compliment! I was definitely feeling the dystopian spirit while crafting this, spot on :) Thank you so much and I'm thrilled you enjoyed it.

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Kendall Defoe
01:58 Oct 21, 2021

Fantastic work...now stay out of my head! ;)

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Bj Hall
20:30 Oct 21, 2021

hahaha! I'll stay as long as I can :)

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Nichole Anderson
12:55 Oct 19, 2021

This wasn't an easy read, and I mean that as a compliment. I really took my time to digest your words and descriptions to better understand the world you created. I enjoyed it very much, well done.

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Bj Hall
18:18 Oct 20, 2021

Thank you so much for this! That means a lot. It wasn't easy to sit with it while writing either, so I feel the pain and I'm so glad it came through and we could share that feeling for a moment in time :)

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Jon Casper
08:57 Oct 19, 2021

Oh my. I just love this. Your prose is like butter. And what an original story idea! Great work!

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Bj Hall
18:19 Oct 20, 2021

What a lovely thing to hear! Thank you, sincerely, Jon.

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Jon Casper
15:09 Oct 21, 2021

You're welcome. And I just realized I had neglected to click "Like" before -- corrected!

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Bj Hall
22:37 Oct 21, 2021

So appreciated, thank you again! :)

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Jessie Hartness
06:46 Oct 19, 2021

This was beautiful. I really think this can be made into a much longer story. I really want to know more about this world; I get a very dystopian vibe from it.

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Bj Hall
18:20 Oct 20, 2021

Oooh, thank you Jessie! I do think there could be more to it, for sure :) I'm so glad you felt the depth. Perhaps I'll do a bit more exploring in this world!

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Lee Kendrick
20:51 Oct 18, 2021

A very sad tale. You have a great way with words, almost poetic. I believe you have great potential to be a good author. Keep on writing, Well done.

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Bj Hall
18:20 Oct 20, 2021

Thank you so much, Lee! This is lovely encouragement; which is the food my author's soul needs! Cheers!

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Ryder Hamilton
18:06 Oct 22, 2021

this story is terrible

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Bj Hall
18:28 Oct 22, 2021

haha, well! welcome to Reedsy, burner account? Can't write for everyone :) Hope you find something you do like.

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