This Isn’t a Drill

You’re sitting in your office when the fire alarm goes off. As you start to exit the building with other coworkers in an orderly fashion, as you’ve been trained, you hear screaming coming from the corner office. Instinctively, you rush to that office to see smoke and fire all around the door. What do you do? Write this scene.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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134 thoughts on “This Isn’t a Drill

  1. emmashirlin

    I Hate My Job

    The days I have lived out in this 4 by 4 cuticle seem to blur together, each one almost indistinguishable from the previous one. Defined solely by the monotonous tapping of fingers against keys, the occasional murmur of small talk, and the shrill ring of the office phone, the primary purpose of which is to shake the employees out of our vivid daydreams and back into the dry world we live in every day, from monday through friday, 9am to 5pm, 51 weeks a year. This is the way it has always been, throughout all of the time I have spent wasting away with my only goal being to keep my family well and happy. Nothing has changed for these five years, that is, until yesterday.
    The repetitive lives my coworkers and I once lived were quickly interrupted by the blaring fire alarm, demanding that we leave our assigned places and escape into the real world, despite the fact that none of us were due for our lunch breaks. We all began to quickly shuffle towards the exit, like slaughterhouse cows being freed into a meadow. Just before I managed to step out of the door, I heard a scream emerge from the corner office.
    I volunteered to go back, and I turned on my heels and waded through the smoke, until my palm wrapped around the hot doorknob that contained the heart of the fire, along with my boss. Upon opening the door, I saw him laying on the ground, his stout 5’6 stature now engulfed in flames, and a trail of smoke rising from his thick grey hair. As he struggled, began to call my name, begging for help. I smiled apologetically and asked him, “Who do you think started this fire?” I waved goodbye and left the crumbling building once and for all, thanking God for my pyromania.

  2. AlanF

    I went to the door and I saw a girl on the floor, her leg was covered by a piece of wall, so I ran and tried to get her out of there. Suddenly, a part of the ceiling fell down and blocked the door. It didn’t matter to me because first I needed to save her but she got more worry and started to tell me that what I was doing had not case because the room hadn’t exit anyways. I asked her to calm down, in that moment I could get her leg out of there. After that, I searched a way to escape and I realised that a wall had been damaged by the fire so I demolished it and I ran away with the girl.

  3. cafei264

    “Okay class, right now you’re going to have 20 minutes with a partner to work on your geography homework. Question 7 is wrong by the way, it should be pointing to the country above.” Chairs screeched and feet shuffled to find a different location in the room. As I sat back at my desk, I opened my computer to check some of my emails when, beep, beep, beep, beep. You never can get used to them, and like usual, I jumped out of my chair and put my right hand to my heart. I could feel it beating heavily now, as I slowly found my feet and shouted, “We go to the gymnasium, right near the stage. Single file everyone!” I closed the classroom door to see hundreds of students walking in the same direction, like a herd running away from prey, but much slower. I moved in with the crowd and found myself being tugged by a small hand.
    “Excuse me, I think my teacher is unconscious from the smoke that’s piling in our room. Can you help?”
    “Yeah, um… which way?” Finding myself a little confused at what just occurred.
    “Over here.” And we rushed off towards the opposite way. Thoughts running through my mind. I’ve been a teacher how long and this is the first time it’s real. Where are all the other teachers? We turned a corner and his whole class, 20 something just standing out in the hall not knowing what to do. I peered in to see what the damage was. The teacher lying unconscious, spread eagle over the tile.
    “Alright kids, just stay in the hall away from the door.” I walked to the man, lowered down and touched my hand to his neck. Okay, still breathing I said to myself. Relief swept over me as a handful of teachers ran through the door.
    “Is he okay?” Calling everyone at the same time.
    “Yes, he’s breathing, just don’t know what happened. Help me pick him up from the other side. 1, 2, 3.”
    “Watch his head.” One of the teachers called out who was supervising, as we moved our way out the door and into the hall. We sat him up against the wall as another teacher helped the kids down to the Gymnasium.
    “We need water for him.” I said, wondering when he would awake. Then suddenly, a big gasp filled his lungs and his eyes shot open.
    “Are you okay?”
    “I… I think so. I was just plugging a chord in the socket and I don’t remember what happened next.”
    “Here, drink this. Well thankfully you’re okay, and all your students are fine. You got a brave little group, especially the boy with the red hair.”

  4. allina11224

    She was a sweet thing, lilacs floated on her dress and threatened to fall from her hair as I twirled her around at the top of one of the undulating grassy hills.

    “Why do you insist on dancing with no music?”

    “Because the beauty of it.” she says pushing her face real close to mine. Her nose scrunches up when she smiles, making her eyes squint and forcing the eyeliner, that she persistently wears because she doesn’t like they way her eye is shaped, to disappear above her lid. I want to grab her and kiss her everytime she smiles like that. And I would’ve, but she’s twirling out of my arms now and singing. God, her voice is beautiful, but she doesn’t think it’s good enough. She doesn’t even tell anyone that she loves to sing.

    “We can make our own music.” She says giggling, grabbing my hand and letting it go as she dances around my still form.

    She trips on her own foot and yelps. With a laugh, I take advantage of her slip and wrap my arms around her waist, pulling her close to me before she can spin away again.

    “You’ll never let me fall right?” She says. I’m about to say yes, and kiss her, and love her, and worship her when she bursts into flames.

    I’m dreaming, I tell myself.

    The melody that was her turns into a beast-like screech as flames licked up her body and enveloped everything but her face. Her face turned the color of ash and her eyes turned black and plump red lips became covered with soot. Her face turned every which way, as she screamed, her skin splitting apart and melting before my eyes.

    Wake up.

    We weren’t in the hills anymore. We weren’t in the place where I’d proposed and she’d leaped into my arms with tears in her eyes, telling me that she loved me and kissing every part of my face. No. We were outside my office in Stewart Tech, and the air was heavy with smoke.

    Wake up, wake up, wake up!

    I hadn’t known she was visiting, I told myself. If I’d known I would’ve pulled her out of my office.

    She’d reached for me but as flames licked at my heels, and the smoke began to make my eyes tear, I let myself believe that the crowd had pushed me away from her grasp, down the stairs, and plunged me into crisp clean morning air. To safety.

    But even as I sucked in bouts of fresh air, she appeared right before me in the parking lot where the crowd had spit my body out. Her skin was charred, and her eyes molten red like lava.

    “Baby, I’m sorry!” I said, just like I said every night.

    But she never answered, only stared back with accusing blood red eyes.

  5. Lacharmoure

    “So if you simplify two eighths, you get one fourth.” I was writing the fractions on the whiteboard and making a poorly drawn diagram when the alarm started to blast. The students all immediately closed their books and started to get out of their seats. So much for our math lesson today. Why can’t they schedule these things during Art?
    “Okay ladies and gentlemen, line up and we will go out to the soccer field,” I yelled, barely able to hear myself over the blaring alarm. Why does it have to be so loud?
    The students filed into a line, I grabbed my clipboard and we opened the door. “Do not use the side walk,” I had to remind them, “go far away from the building.” A few students looked at me with a touch of fear. “It’s okay it is just a fire drill. Let’s go line up.”
    As I shut the door and began to walk behind the students I heard a scream from Mrs. Bleeker’s room. The door flung open and students came pouring out. They were going in all directions, scared.
    “Go to the soccer field!” I yelled. Some of the students listened. “Where’s Mrs. Bleeker?” I asked a couple of girls who turned around to run toward the field. The girl did not answer but the boy who followed did.
    “She’s on fire!” He cried. “James did it!” He was crying and gasping. As I tried to comprehend what he was saying I began to smell smoke.
    “Did someone start a fire in science class?” I asked the boy. “Is everyone out of the room? Did Mrs. Bleeker call the fire department?”
    The boy shook his head looking more frightened. “No! She’s on fire!” He burst into tears, turned and ran for the soccer field.
    At that second I had to decide. Head for the soccer field and count the kids like they taught us in every drill for the last 8 years or go check on Mrs. Bleeker and whoever’s left in her classroom. I took one last look toward my students and the field, then turned towards the door.
    The door was half open and the smell of smoke was wafting out. I could see flames strewn along the desks and in the back corner of the room where Mrs. Bleeker’s desk was, and then I heard muffled screams. There were no students left in the classroom. There was no sign of Mrs. Bleeker? I grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall and began spraying at the flames.
    “Marge?” I called.
    The muffled screams got louder.
    “Mrs. Bleeker? Are you here? Are you hurt?”
    It was getting harder to see in the smoke. The muffled screams were frantic now. They were coming from the cabinet behind Mrs. Bleeker’s desk. Oh my God!
    I began spraying a path toward her desk and the cabinet. I was praying that the extinguisher wouldn’t give out on me. Her whole desk was surrounded in flames, piles of student papers and books on fire. As I dowsed the flames in foam I notices a half burned paper on the desk. It had a big red “F” on it and the name in the corner said “James”.
    Just the Mr. Brown and Mr. Lewis came running in with fire extinguishers and began spraying flames in all directions. I could hear a siren outside. I opened the cabinet to find Marge Bleeker slumped and sobbing with her hands and feet tied together.

  6. CRIOS

    This Isn’t A Drill

    All my cohorts had escaped the danger. I was able to lead them outside the rumbling building to where the toiling firemen struggled to water down the fire ravaged building. I rushed back into the turmoil; ignoring the appeals to stop and return to safety. I kept moving forward without letup.

    The blasting fire-alarms, the overwhelming black smoke, assaulted my senses. I stopped for I thought I heard something that could not be, a voice? At once it boomed- a spine tingling scream! Yes, it was defiantly…a woman’s scream! (Was she up against a corner; trapped and desperate for someone to jump between her and a wall of fire at her feet?) I estimated from where the scream emerged and scrambled foremost in that direction. The voice was getting weaker as I closed in on it.

    Toxic fumes started to fill my lungs, rising heat pricked my eyes, blood coursed down my arm to my elbow and dripped down my side without abatement: A gash begot by shards of glass? I could only guess. The urgency in reaching the trapped woman dwarfed the meagerness of the injury. I was pressed for time. I had to keep moving, looking. Someone was counting on me. Someone needed rescue!

    Once I reached the last door, I heard the cry again. But this time it was faint, sickly. It seemed to be coming from a back room. I got to the door and kicked it in. Her cries filled the dark space. I found her. For the first time I shivered at what I witnessed before my eyes- a wall of fire, unyielding and looming, curtain one from the other. I resisted weakness and did not cowering low. I felt the urgency rising within me and I sprung up, focused my mind and bolting ahead!

    Into the fire I leapt. No fear, just action. I saw her crunched down. (As I neared her, I felt as if no harm could come to me; as if my skin had hardened into an impenetrable shield. Pure valor kept my nerve rooted.) She heard my steps and stood before me confused; eyes dazed. Tilting her head slightly and realizing that I was indeed there next to her, caused a smile to escape her tensed face. She was safe now.

    When we walked away from the debris, and out into the afternoon sky, cheers erupted, embraces aplenty; everyone standing in awe at my bravado.

    (Hey guys, this is just a quickie; no big thing, no big deal.)

  7. Phoenix Wilde

    (Hello. I am at work and I only have 10 minutes to have a go at this prompt. I apologize in advance in for any errors.)
    Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.
    The tiny droplets of water mingled with an annoying beep interrupts my sleep. Opening my eyes, all I see is smoke. Smoke everywhere. I quickly stand and grab my briefcase. I walk calmly and quickly down the hall and the screams come soon after. “Help! Help!” My instinct tells me to keep going for any moment I can become engulfed by the merciless flames. Yet, a darker voice within me tells me to look and to see. In a trance filled with curiosity, I walk closer to the screams and see the bodies reaching towards me; their melting limbs desperately attempting to grasp me. I do not fight them off and I am to my knees within minutes. I can feel the flames upon me, caressing me gently. My skin began to vanish and I can see a skeleton beneath what used to be. I can feel no pain other than where the hands of the flames many victims hold me in place.I close my eyes and prepare for death.
    Suddenly, I feel a cold hand press my cheek and I breath a horrible and ragged breath.
    “Can you hear me?”
    After several drags I managed to sputter, “What-“

  8. BookwormTunnel

    *Get out.*
    The voice rings in my head. I’m slaving away at my keyboard. The deadline; it’s tomorrow.
    I’m used to the voice. It talks to me, incessantly, every single day.
    It’s been a part of my life since I was a little girl. I don’t know why the voice chose me.
    But it keeps speaking to me. Even though I’m a well-known journalist now. Even though I’ve left my old life, my childhood behind.
    I want to scream. I want to say “Shut up!” and silence the voice. I know it won’t work though.
    It never works.
    *Sari, get out!*
    The voice is more urgent now. No, voice, I can’t.
    The deadline’s tomorrow.
    Something pushes me out of my chair. I get a faceful of concrete.
    *It’s coming. Get out.*
    I heard you the first time.
    I’m a little scared now. No, I’m positively terrified. The voice in my head has never been wrong.
    Has it?
    My coworkers are staring at me now. “Don’t mind me. Just a little…balance problem. Um, I’ve got to go to the doctor for it. Like right now. Thanks! Bye!”
    *GO!*
    I sprint out of the room and tumble down the steps.
    *Faster.*
    Faster it is then.
    My heart pounds.
    My head aches.
    Sweat pours down my back.
    *It’s almost here.*
    *Sari!*
    *Hurry. Now.*
    I burst through the doors, dizzy and breathless. The minute my feet hit the pavement, the building behind me erupted in flames.
    Supernatural flames.
    The voice in my head had long ago become my constant companion. I barely noticed it anymore.
    But now…
    now it had saved my life.
    How did it know about the fire?
    “Did you do this?” I ask, my voice trembling.
    *I did it for you.*
    “Why?” The fear has taken hold of me. Whatever’s in my head is not a benevolent thing.
    I used to think it was good. It was God, or something like Him.
    Now I know. The voice in my head…it’s evil.
    *I did it for you.*
    Why why why?
    *If I didn’t, you were going to miss your deadline.*

    1. jhowe

      Good one. Lots of great suspense. Even though Sari was talking with herself, basically, you did a good job of keeping it straight on who’s talking.

  9. Smileyface256

    I click the “print” button with a sigh of relief, my article about the latest San Diego Comicon complete. The printer is about halfway through the first page when the fire alarm blares. I check my watch: it’s 10:30am. They’re doing the monthly fire drill a little early this time.

    Jim from the next cubicle over files behind me, bringing up the end of the line. “You think they’re trying to shake things up a little?”

    I shrug. “Probably. I know I’ve been counting down the seconds to the fire drill for the past few months.” I’ve almost reached the door to the stairs when something makes me stop.

    Jim frowns. “What’s up?”

    I sniff the air, just to be certain. I swear my heart stops. “They’ve never used smoke for fire drills before.”

    Jim’s eyes widen and we both turn towards the office at far corner of the room…where a column of smoke is pouring out from under the door. I don’t know what I’m doing. Part of me is saying to stay back, the firemen will take care of it, Phil probably got out just fine and is already going down the stairs. Part of me says that the door would be open if Phil had left, and if he was in there the firemen would be too late. I hear screaming and pounding. He’s definitely in there.

    I still don’t know what I’m doing. The safety-oriented part of my brain throws its hands up in defeat as I rationalize that I can probably kick that door in; the fire around it has weakened the structure, and it always seems to work in the movies. “Stay back, Phil! I’m kicking the door in.”

    The screaming stops. I step back a bit, and with strength I didn’t know I had, I slam my shoulder into the door, splintering the sides and sending it crashing to the ground in a flurry of smoke, ash and flames. Fire licks at my heels, but instead of burning me it feels…good…like a warm summer breeze. The smoke doesn’t bother me, either; I can breathe it as easily as air. Phil is passed out on the ground, and I easily carry him out; he’s a short guy to begin with.

    Jim runs in and attacks the flames with a fire extinguisher, then he looks at me like a scared deer and sprays my pants.

    “Dude! What was that for?”

    “Your pants were literally on fire.”

    I frown.” …oh.”

    “And what the heck were you thinking, just running into those flames?! You’ve got third-degree burns because–” he blinks. “You–you don’t have third-degree burns. You don’t have any burns.”

    I look down at my slacks-turned-emo-cutoffs, and he’s right. My skin is smeared with soot and white powder, but still smooth and unmarred. “Huh. Cool.”

    “Cool?! Do you know what this means?!”

    “That I have super powers?”

    “Yeah, you’re like, the human flame-retardant!”

    I frown. “That’s a really lame name. How about, ‘The Anti-Flame!’”

    Phil moaned.

    “I guess we should take him to the hospital. I’ll come up with a superhero name later.”

    “How about ‘The Moonlighting Firefighter,’ writer by day, superhero by night.”

    I roll my eyes. The fire department shows up.

  10. E.C

    The alarm bells toll, the doors unlock.

    It’s 7 AM in section Amnity. The white lights come on. Groggily all the men and women leave their cells and fall into place on the conveyor-belt. The belt surges forward as we take our clothes from nearby droids who help us get dressed. I yawn and stretch in my blazer and slim-fitting pencil skirt. I finally reach the end of the line and step out onto the platform. Hastily and with ease I type in my 16-digit serial number and request my office. A claw like machine ducks over 200 feet below and grips the handle of my office, before swinging wildly upward and placing it on the stage before me. The Plexiglas wall slides upward like a hidden door in a magic box.

    I step inside and sit in my office chair, the stage pivots to the left and enters the elevator. I watch blandly as the next platform appears for the person who was behind me. I head three floors up and stop in my designated spot, office suite 254362B. The droid in the corner of the room whirs to life and blinks.

    “Good morning miss Empard, toast or a bagel?” The bot glides over to my desk effortlessly.
    “Toast.” I reply quietly. The top of his head retreats, exposing two slits, meant for toasting. The heating coils burned a vibrant orange and in within minutes the two slices of bread, which were stored in the bot’s pantry-like torso, are a golden brown.
    “Thanks Plunk.” I say mindlessly, as if he were a person. “Initiate ventilation sequence 4C.” With a satisfactory beep, Plunk hovers back to his corner as the ventilation fan on his back begins to hum softly.

    Suddenly a siren blares through the loud speaker in my office.

    “Please exit your offices, there has been a technical malfunction.” An automated woman proclaims as the Plexiglas wall rises.
    “Plunk,”
    “Yes Miss Empard?”
    “Initiate manual settings.”
    “Miss Empard you are not authorized to conduct manual settings.”
    “Override 325492 Sector Amnity.”
    “Authorization granted. Manual setting launching.”
    I programmed Plunk to follow me and my orders and headed out into the hall. Men and women begin to pour out of their offices in a silent yet panicked mass. The smell of smoke singed my nostrils as I noticed no one else cared to bring their bots with them. I clasped onto Plunk’s arm and dove into the sea of people. An explosion rattled the entire complex. A woman screamed in the distance.

    “Intruder alert!”

    People began to panic as natural instinct set in. Fire bursted through the corridor as we continued flooding to the stairwell. I noticed people from sections Alacrity and Amicable were mixed in. A loud voice boomed,

    “We are the rebellion! The outlawed! We are Sector Acrimonious.” My ears perked at the name, even more so at the voice. I fought my way against the current of people and yelled out for my brother. Smoke filled my lungs as I continued to hold on tight to Plunk’s arm.

    A phoenix will burn. In its wake, phoenix will rise from the ash.

  11. templewms

    THE CORNER OFFICE

    The veil of smoke lifted on the 23rd Floor. Everyone moved down the stairwell, with no panic as the sound of sirens came closer to the burning skyscraper.

    “Did you hear that?” Jackson Rawlings asked.

    “Screaming,” Barbara, his boss and sister said.

    They opened the door leading onto the 22nd Floor.

    “It’s coming from the corner office,” Barbara said. “That’s a woman screaming.”

    They moved down the hallway, to the door. Jack put his hand on the doorknob, quickly withdrawing it and blowing on his hand.

    “Jesus, it’s as hot as an iron.” Smoke curled under the doorway.

    “If we open it, we die,” Barbara said.

    They both stepped back from the door. For a moment, Jack thought about kicking it, hard.

    “Don’t,” his sister said. “You’ll be a dead kickboxer, Jack, and I need you at our company.”

    They moved quickly back to the stairwell. The screaming from the corner office had stopped. As they joined the crowd snaking down the stairwell, Barbara said: “Corner office, must have been a boss.”

    Her brother looked at her and said: “I never want a corner office.”

    “You’ll never have one, Jack.”

    Did she actually smile? She was ruthless. He still heard the screaming in his head. His sister probably heard nothing. She had a corner office, the boss.

  12. igonzales81

    I hate my job.

    Well, maybe I don’t hate my job, but I hate where I work. And who I work for. And, just a little, who I work with.

    Here in this tower of steel and glass, I feel a far cry from where I was born and raised. It’s all so impersonal here, so disconnected, so faithless.

    I was up for that promotion. I worked two years for it. I put in the overtime, applied all the brown-nosing I knew how to. And it still went to Jenkins, all because he mentioned to some suit higher up that I didn’t go to a fancy school, like that automatically makes me some inbred from the Bayou. Now he has the corner office, and gets to come by and tell me what a wonderful job I’m doing. Like that makes up for anything.

    It’s hurts like that that stick with you.

    Of course, other things stick with you. Little things you learn here and there, you pick up from where you grew up.

    I think I’ve got it right. The candles—birthday candles, since that’s all I could find—all arranged around the circle of grave dust. Had to drive two hours to find a cemetery; what kind of world are we living in? The symbols drawn in fresh lamb’s blood—thank you, Henry’s Deli—with just the faintest touch of the brush. And there in the middle, the most important part, the little doll, made of sackcloth, with the crumbs of that donut that Jenkins left on my desk after he said it tasted stale. That part… now, you can’t do without that part.

    I hope he likes that corner office. It’s a nice office.

    I strike the match, and light the candles one by one.

    Then I get up and walk for the stairs, leaving my desk for the last time.

    I’m five flights down when the alarms go off, but I can still hear the screams.

    I hope he likes that office.

    ‘Cause now it’s his tomb.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Your poor MC was driven to pure hate and fury. It’s just not worth it. This story touched all the evil thoughts I’ve ever had. I am ashamed to say. It tooke a long time to recover from pure hate and misled ambition
      As I said before. It’s just not worth it. Now I don’t, care about ambition and the Road now moves upward. Perhaps higher than I ever deserve. But who.am I to complain? Do you see how your story has affected me?

  13. Bernard04303

    MONDAY
    It was a nice Monday morning in the office. The leaves of the trees were glistening in the sun and it was just so peaceful. I logged on to my computer and like every morning I start off by seeing the beautiful exotic island of Maldives clear blueish water and beautiful houses on stilts it was just wonderful. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start off the morning except seeing my beautiful wife one more time. It’s been pretty hard since her death but I have learned how to cope. Anyways it was just a perfect day maybe a little too perfect. That’s when he came walking towards me. It was the……boss! He looked mad (I knew it was too good to be true) but to my excitement he said that after the twenty-five cuts that he made my job was safe! It was unbelievable this morning was great I tell you just the and I mean the best morning in the past eight years I have been working here. Why did it take so long for this wonderful day to happen? Who knows but what I do know is this week has started good. It just felt like something was about to happen but I don’t know what……
    BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
    Wait what’s going on the next drill wasn’t until Wednesday. I better check my email to see if it was rescheduled. “ahhhhhh heeelp” OMG! I quickly get out of my seat and run through the halls (but no one was there they must have already evacuated the building) Down the stairs I go, I count down the floors until I get to garage level. I open the door to exit the stairs and there it was the raging flames of the fire. *bringgg bringgg* my phone starts ringing. I answer “hey Ronald where are you” I answer with “I’m going back up the stairs to get out the main entrance.” “the fires spreading quickly so please hurry and get out here as fast as possible.” I see the main entrance it’s flashing from red and blue I hear sirens. I get out of the building and feel dizzy when I inhale the fresh air. I look down my skins charred and I’m bleeding. I fall to the ground within seconds of looking at my skin.
    TUESDAY
    I wake up and the lights are blaring in my face and I hear doctors chatting with each other. “is he alive?” the surgeon answers with “he should be fine give him a couple of hours.” I yell *yelling*! “He’s finely awake!?!” I bring my hands from under the cloth that they are under. It must have been a miracle my skin was cleared and I looked like a cleaned-up newborn. “is he ready to be released?” I quickly answer with a “YES!” They took me down the hall to the release counter in a wheel chair. They said I would be a little out of it for a few days’ cause of the gas but I would be fine in the long run. “Have a wonderful rest of the week Ronald.”
    This is where the story ends the next day for Ronald may be quite interesting but till then we will have to wait.

  14. tiffanymurphy

    I jumped when the fire alarm went off. Usually someone gave us a heads-up when there was going to be a drill in the office, just so we didn’t spill our coffee. I must have missed the memo today. I grabbed my purse, and checked around my desk for my phone. Most of the people I worked with were honest, I was fairly sure. But no sense leaving my things unattended, just in case.

    “You coming?” my next-desk-neighbor called behind her, prodding me a little.

    “Yeah, I’m just moving a little slowly today. We had guests for dinner, and I had too much wine. I’ll catch up.”

    My desk was farthest from the stairwell, and everyone else was through the door when I remembered that my keys were on my desk, not in my purse. I went back and grabbed them. You never know when there might be a real fire, and it would be a shame to be stuck there and not get to go home just for lack of car keys.

    I retraced my steps to the stairs, still not urgently, even though I was the only one left in sight. My head throbbed. “I’ll never drink wine again.” I said to the empty office.

    My nose wrinkled, and I coughed. I looked down the long hall to my left and saw Sherry in her corner office, banging on the glass walls. Her office was filled with smoke and flame, and although most of it was contained in the office, the smoke was finding cracks in the walls of her glass castle that overlooked the river and the rest of the office, and wafting down the hall.

    I was still sluggish, but clearly she was in trouble.

    I headed toward her, then stopped. I had a sudden vision of her, our first year there, sitting at the desk next to mine, telling me about her date the night before with the handsome director that she knew I had been talking to. I shook my head to clear it. “Whatever,” I told myself. “He was a jerk anyway.”

    I continued toward the door. Her face was panicked. Her office was sparse, but everything that could burn seemed to be doing so.

    I stopped again, as if hitting a brick wall. A vision in my brain again, this time of Sherry in the front of a staff meeting, being toasted with champagne to celebrate her successful project. The one we worked on together. I saw myself sitting in the back, not clapping.

    And then another vision. Sherry leaving for lunch with the two executive directors, me assuming this meant I’d be handling our client alone today. And then Sherry, directing minions as they moved boxes into the glass corner office, smirking at me haughtily.

    She was on her knees now, crying, and I appreciated her disheveled look, mascara around her eyes, double over coughing. I briefly wondered if I would regret it as I turned and headed for the stairs.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Oh, man! In the end we all get what we want one way or another, I suppose? I wonder what Sherry’s thoughts were in that office, other than the obvious. Nice one, Tiffany!

    2. jhowe

      I liked this a lot. Your MC was a little vindictive, but Sherry definitely deserved some form of punishment. Maybe not death though. I think the MC will feel guilty tomorrow.

  15. snuzcook

    Taking another stab at it, from a different angle.

    NOT ME

    “I didn’t do it!”

    “Oh, you did it. We know you did, Randall. You were seen.” The Skinny Cop stood up, turned his back on me, put one hand on the wall. “We’ve got a witness.”

    They were trying to scare me. I don’t scare easy. “Your witness is mistaken. I didn’t do it.”

    The Big Cop sitting across from me leaned in close. I could see fresh sweat and dried sweat tracks on his temples. He had an unhealthy purple flush from his cheeks all the way down his thick neck.
    “You think you’re pretty tough, don’t you. I eat tough punks like you for breakfast.”

    “You should change your diet. Too much cholesterol.”

    “I sh*t turds bigger ‘n you.”

    “Great line. I saw that movie, too. Why don’t you go take a nap with your eyes open, Curley.”

    The Skinny Cop sighed. “Go get some coffee, Chuck.”

    “You don’t believe this guy?”

    “I got it. Take a walk.”

    Chuck slammed out of the room. The other cop sat down backward on the chair across from me.

    “Okay, so let’s say for a minute I believe that it wasn’t you that was seen going back down the hall during the evacuation. Let’s say for the sake of argument there was someone else dressed like you, with your keys, going into your office.”

    “Yeah.”

    “With a can of gasoline.”

    “Yeah.”

    “And a mechanical grill lighter.”

    “Right.”

    “The office where your ex-wife was locked in.”

    “Gotcha, Chief.”

    “Who would it be? If not you, then who’s this other person?”

    “I know. It looks bad. I was there. I set off the fire alarm before hand and started the evacuation. It was the right thing to do, to get everyone out of there. But I didn’t hurt Chrissy.”

    “Why did you want everyone to leave the building.”

    “I knew what was going to happen–at least, I suspected. I thought if I took the lighter and the gasoline and locked them up in my office, he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone.

    “Who?”

    “I…it’s hard to explain.”

    “It was you, Randall. It couldn’t be anyone else.”

    “Ask Chrissy. She knows it wasn’t me. She’ll tell you. I was there, sure. But I didn’t hurt her. I didn’t start the fire.”

    The cop’s phone beeped. He looked at it, excused himself and went out in the hall. I could see he was talking with the Big Cop, then he came back in.

    “That was the hospital. Chrissy’s regained consciousness. She’s already made a statement. It doesn’t look good for you, Randall. She confirms that it was her husband who tried to kill her.”

    “It wasn’t me.”

    “She says her husband poured gasoline on her and lit it on fire.”

    “I know. I saw it.”

    “And you’re her ex-husband.”

    “Yes, but…”

    “C’mon, Randall. Why don’t you just tell us what happened. She was taking you to the cleaners in the divorce? You wanted to get even with her, give her a little pay back, right?”

    “No, you don’t get it, do you. I’m Chrissy’s ex-husband. I divorced her when I realized I wasn’t her only husband.”

    “You mean she’s got another husband somewhere? Sounds like motive to me.”

    “Chris is her husband. Chrissy is married to Chris. Chris is Chrissy. Chris was going to kill Chrissy and frame me for her murder, and commit suicide at the same time. I figured it out and tried to stop him. Chris poured gasoline all over himself—all over Chrissy—and lit it on fire. I was trying to put out the flames when the fire department arrived.”

    The Big Cop came in. He showed the Skinny Cop a piece of paper. “Looks like we’ve got a statement from some Dr. Houwe.”

    “That’s her psychiatrist.”

    The Skinny Cop whistled as he read the paper. “Anyway, he was just at the hospital. He corroborates your story.”

    “So I’m free to go?”

    “We’ll need to talk to you some more, so don’t leave town.”

    “Can I see her?”

    “Not yet. She’s still in ICU. There’s been extensive damage to the face and one arm, probably require a series of surgeries to treat the scarring. Gonna require a lot of physical therapy but she’ll pull through.”

    “Which one?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Which one will pull through?”

    “I don’t know, her I guess. Probably both of them. Why?”

    “You really don’t get it, do you? None of you really gets it.” I was already running for the elevator. “He’ll try again! This time she might not be so lucky!”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      The man is totally insane. Battling with his own ID
      Am I anywhere close to the truth? This is very exciting and intriguing tale you’ve unfolded for us to read. The dialogue ID realistic and sharp
      . You’re at the top of the game here.Snuz

      1. snuzcook

        My poor MC was less than clear in his explanation. Let me interpret:
        Randall was married to Chrissy until he discovered that she had a 2nd personality, a jealous male named Chris who identified himself as Chrissy’s husband. Chris decided to do away with Chrissy in a murder/suicide (one body, two victims), and to frame Randall for the crime. Randall found evidence of Chris’ plot, i.e. the gasoline and the lighter, and he took them to his office to keep them safe, but found that Chris/Chrissy was already there. There was an altercation, and Chris managed get his hands on the gasoline and we all know the rest.

    2. Tysheena Jackson

      Very exhilarating read! This guy doesn’t sound so innocent though. Chris and Chrissy– ironic! Perhaps the ex-husband got angry about her infidelity as well and had had enough? Hmm…

  16. 420marmar

    The minutes ticked by slowly. I was on my afternoon coffee break at my cubicle office job. My computer home screen is an exotic island looking out onto white sands and clear water. Paradise. A far cry from this 9-5. I was pulled out of my thoughts by a blare coming from above me. The fire alarm had woken the office. Suddenly, there was scurrying. No one had mentioned there would be a fire drill, but I suppose that the administrators might not have told us paper-shufflers about it. Gotta make the drill close to the real deal. I felt a small twinge of fear deep in my stomach, almost like butterflies when a girl sees her crush and gets afraid she’ll stutter or embarrass herself.

    Maybe this is a real fire. Coworkers dashed through the exit doors, mainly seeming happy to have a break from their desks. It was a nice day outside afterall, good excuse for a fire drill. I was almost out the door, when I heard a blood-curdling scream come from the corner office.

    Without a thought, I ran to Katherine’s office.

    I got to the door; my heart dropped. Smoke billowed from underneath the closed door, and flames were visible through the office window. I tried the door handle out of instinct. It was both searingly hot to the touch and locked from the inside. I went to the window and did my finest impression of a Hollywood action movie- I kicked the window in. A wall of smoke hit my face and stung my eyes. I got down on the ground, as low as I could. I used my arms to search the room. My right hand felt a woman’s calf, feeling upward, my left hand felt more of a crumpled body. The rest was a blur. I remember pulling with all my might, sweating profusely, unsure if we’d make it out alive. Katherine was a very fair and even-minded boss. I pulled and pulled, while trying to hold my breath. I felt hands on my shoulders. Someone much stronger than I was had started to pull me as well. Time was going by both quickly and slowly. I started to fade out of consciousness.

    I woke up with a jolt. I was on a stretcher that had banged as the EMTs pushed it into an ambulance. I saw Katherine, alive, on a ventilating machine. Not particularly religious, I couldn’t help but send out a mental thank you to whatever or whoever might have been looking out for us that day.

  17. jhowe

    The alarm in the fish bowl blared as two bug-eyed goldfish leapt and landed on the table. They stood on their tails, watching the flames spread across the water.

    “Thank God we made it out in time,” said the fish with speckled skin. “Of course, now we’re equally screwed.”

    This is from a Farside cartoon from years back. I have no idea why I decided to post it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Enjoyed it John. Suppose you and I were the golfish, just suppose
        Would one of us have enough brain.power to hop over to the goldfish graveyard and splash in.and float down the sewer to live again?

  18. Emroo

    We’re still pouring coffee and picking at dry pastries when the high-pitched mechanical wail of the fire alarm cuts through the conference room. Immediately, the room feels a collective burst of relief that the meeting would be postponed, which is replaced just quickly and just as universally by annoyance.

    “Didn’t we just do this a few weeks ago?” “Does that alarm really have to be so loud?”

    No one’s made a move for the conference room door yet. I sigh. I was appointed the Safety Officer for the west side of the 14th floor two months ago after Lisa was fired, courtesy of our new CEO, who we all hate.

    “All right, guys,” I say. “You all know the drill. Let’s head for the stairs. The sooner we do this, the sooner it’s over.”

    There was a low hum of indecipherable grumbling, but like a glacier, the group started to slowly migrate to the door.

    “Look!” whined Delacey, a former intern who had been bumped up to the accounting team, mostly because she’d work cheap, not because she possessed any discernable skills. She was holding up her left foot, which was clad in an absurdly high stiletto. “I can’t walk down 14 flights of stairs in these! I’ll break my ankle!”

    I shrug with what I hope is a sympathetic look, and try to decide how to avoid one of her trademark meltdowns when Roy from IT saves me, slinging a meaty arm around her slim, bare shoulders.

    “C’mon, Lace,” he says. “If you need me to, I’ll carry you, as long as you don’t say anything to HR.”

    Delacey giggles stupidly, and they leave together.

    I watch as everyone files out the door to the stairs, and as soon as the last person is out of sight, I start my sweep. I walk quickly through the maze of cubicles, making sure no one tried to stay behind. But I’m alone on this side of the floor. Following procedure, I text “14W—All Clear” to the HR director, and make my own way to the stairs.

    Just as I’m about to push in the silver bar, I hear something coming from the east side of the floor. I hesitate for a moment, before following the source of the sound. I turn the corner at the end of the long hallway and see Jessica Stanley, our CEO, in her office. It’s hard to make her out through all the smoke that has filled her office, but now I can clearly hear her screaming. I realize that Jessica has fired most of the people who used to sit with her on this side of the floor, and the few who remain were in the conference room with me when the alarm went off. I’m sure everyone, like me, thought this was just another drill. No one thought there was any real danger.

    “You shouldn’t have let Lisa go,” I say, as I head back to the stairs. “I really liked Lisa.”

    1. calinamircea

      I created an account on this website just to shake your hand, man, this was a very fun read and I actually lol-ed at the end. I mean the real LOL that my generation made up, not the straight face i’m bored and this slightly put a crease on my face, but the real one, with sounds and everything. I scared my cat. Thank you!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved the ending, boy it’s a blast to get floored like that. John is definately correct, you are very welcomed here to throttle us each week.

  19. Jay

    The Haunted Typewriter

    Screaming! Screaming! Fire! Fire everywhere!

    Alfie opened his eyes. He surveyed the bus, and no one was looking at him. No one knew what he’d seen. He looked down at his watch, and he’d only closed them for five minutes. It wasn’t long enough to get sleep, but it was just long enough for his mind to remind him why he only slept when he could no longer keep his eyes open.

    After grabbing his stuff from the overhead compartment, Alfie stepped off the bus, and he watched the crowd of people quickly piled into the building to avoid the rain. Unlike the rest of them, he stood there for a moment in that cool drizzle. He much preferred the rain to being crammed in the middle of a large mob. He was, after all, socially anxious, and compounding his issues were these large groups of people. If there were ever more than a dozen people surrounding him, he would feel like running, perhaps even screaming. Therefore, he let the group dissipate first.

    When the last of the crowd vacated the loading area, there were a few people still moving about. To the left, a woman hurriedly ushered her daughter to the bathrooms, and an old man leaned against the wall to the right smoking a cigarette. He looked old enough to know better than to smoke but just cantankerous enough not to care. A panhandler san on the bench next to him making bracelets with beads, and there was a larger woman standing next to him looking over his wares. Directly ahead, there stood a well-dressed man holding a sign with Alfie’s name on it.

    As he approached the sign-holder, he overheard the woman telling her little girl how she should have used the restroom earlier. The girl giggled, no doubt finding humor in the fact that her mother was irritated with her. It was a perfect example of the immaturity of children, and a good reason why Alfie never had any of his own.

    The man with the sign said, “Alfie, I presume?”

    Alfie nodded, “That’s me.”

    “Pleasure to meet you, sir. I’m Nathan. Follow me, please.”

    Nathan led him through the crowd inside the building. He felt small in that mess of people, expecting at any moment there would be some kind of accident that caused a huge panic. That’s all he needed were hysterical people trampling him to death. Perhaps, instead, it would be more subtle, and he’d find himself the victim of a faceless serial killer blending in with them. All he’d feel was the small prick of a needle, and a moment later, he’d fight the blurred vision before passing out for his final rest.

    Knock it off, he scolded himself, just relax.

    It felt like an eternity, but after several deep breathes and a long moment of his hammering heart beating the drums of fear into his ears, they finally made it through the crowd. He quickly pressed through the entrance and out into the main loading area near the street.

    Here there were a few people packing their belongings into the backs of both taxis and Uber vehicles. Nathan stopped next to a blacked-out Cadillac sedan, and he opened the door. Alfie tossed his small backpack of clothes into the car and climbed into the back seat.

    Nathan didn’t waste time getting behind the wheel. He looked into the rear view mirror at Alfie and said, “It’s going to be a long drive, sir. I suggest you get some rest.”

    Alfie didn’t want to sleep. He knew he’d find himself right where he was earlier on that bus with all the screaming and burning, fire everywhere. However, he didn’t get much sleep the last eighteen hours, which made it much easier for him to pass out now that he was alone. He resisted, but it was no good. He felt his limbs get heavy, and his lids grew heavier. The world around him became sharper, and his vision duller. A moment later, he closed his eyes and drifted off into the Neverland of nightmares and demons—unsure if he’d ever return.

    (…to be continued)

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Bravo! This would make for a perfect opening scene for a wonderful sci-fi/thriller/action movie. I’m definitely looking forward to the next part. Let’s hope Alfie doesn’t find himself in a HOT situation, then again… let’s hope he does!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hi Jay, it took me a long enough time to get here and it certainly was worth it. Fast pased on one hand, detailed descriptions on the other amd mesmerizing to boot. You had me by the throat all the way through this, then dropped me. When are you coming at us for part two? I’m waiting and by the way, the writing was spectacular.

  20. Tysheena Jackson

    I decided to do a different take on the prompt so here goes nothing.

    “How’d you do it?”

    The teenager looked up from the table and looked between both detectives in the room, his gaze settling on the female inquirer. “I think you’re asking the wrong question, Ma’am.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Mhm. And it’s quite obvious that Detective Lancelot here thinks the same.” His eyes shifted to the male Detective’s now tensed form and cracked a grin. “But he won’t admit it because he doesn’t want to come across as vain or misogynistic and there’s a slight chance he might get laid—.”

    Detective Ahmed Basara broke from his silent facade and his fists came down hard on the metal table. “That’s enough, you punk! You think this is funny? You burn down an entire building injuring twenty-three innocent people –one of them being your dad– and think you can make light of the situation? Well, let me set you straight, kid. There is no way in hell that you are going to disrespect–”

    “Basara, let him go!”

    It was Detective Gold pulling the man off of the teenage boy. The man’s hands remained around the kid’s throat but with the ushering of his partner’s words he slowly backed away from him. The seventeen year old, who’d been detained only six hours before, looked up at the older male from the cold floor where he’d been knocked to. His throat hurt, and there was a throbbing in his head where it had come in contact with the wall. His bottom lip began to quiver and he started to sob. Both detectives stood there with blank faces as the teen curled up into himself right there on the floor. The words began to spill out of him as he recollected the acts he performed just over twelve hours before that nearly killed innocent people.

    He revealed to them that his father, the vice president of one of the top law firms in Los Angeles, had been abusing him for the past six months. How his father swore that he didn’t mean to– abuse him that was– that he was just hurt and angry from the stress of his recent divorce. He’d also become an emotional alcoholic. If he wasn’t bringing some stranger home that night only to find the other side of the bed empty upon awakening, he found himself cursing God at the top of his lungs until he passed out cold. So the teenager, finally having enough, skipped school one morning and set out on a mission: his father would pay for all the hurt and pain he caused not just him, but his mother too. “I wanted him to burn!” he spat, banging his cuffed fists on the tabletop. “I wanted him to know suffering just like me.”

    “You set multiple parts of the firm on fire,” said Gold. “If you were getting revenge on your father, why didn’t you–”

    “Why didn’t you torch his office alone?” Basara demanded, cutting off his partner all together.

    In that moment the teenager boy looked Detective Basara square in the eyes and the corner of his mouth upturned into something crooked. “Because if he was going down, those bastards were going with him.”

    1. Jay

      I liked your story, Tyhseena. I was expecting something a little deeper for the last line, perhaps along the idea that he wanted to kills his father and destroy everything his father built. Just bring it all crashing to the ground (or up in smoke, as it were).

      Not bad, though. Not bad, indeed. 😀

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        I agree, Jay. I was having so much trouble with the ending that I’d written it about seven times before I stuck with this one. Perhaps I will write a sequel to it, just to calm my nerves. Thanks! 🙂

        1. A.S.P.

          “I wanted him to know suffering. Just like me.” I like the harsh impact of that line and probably would’ve ended the story there. Or perhaps to go a little deeper/darker I’d add “Everyone should suffer.” Or something much better than that, lol. Endings are tough, but I really enjoyed your interpretation of the prompt.

          1. Tysheena Jackson

            Thanks for the feedback, A.S.P. I couldn’t quite figure out the teenager’s resolution so I definitely left out some dialogue that could have aided me into creating a darker, more terse atmosphere. I thought about ending it there but it felt unfinished, more unfinished than it does now. Hmm. A sequel is definitely in the works.

          2. Kerry Charlton

            Liked your story a whole lot and a sequel to it would round it out. I do this to my self also, when I approach the 500, i tend to end the story when I want to continue it. We’re certainly not sterangers to part two, I’m the worst offender.

      1. pinkbamboo

        They said not to bring anything along. I have nothing on me except my identification card and phone in my pockets. Move along, everyone. Let’s move along quickly. Everything is going to be fine, I can hear the fire engine outside the building. Just two more floors to safety. I looked around at my colleagues and some of them were quiet. There were also some talking in low voices but we all moved swiftly along. 

        Everything is going to be – 

        Wait.. what’s that sound? I stepped away from the crowd and moved towards the sound. Was that my imagination? 

        I walked towards the corner and immediately smelt smoke. I raised my palm to my face to cover my nose and mouth. 

        “Hello?” I called out. 

        “Hello?? Help me help me!!” it was a man and he was trapped in the room. 

        “Umm .. can you come out?” I went nearer but the smoke got worse. 

        “I’m stuck. Please help me to get out. Please! I can’t open the door” there were constant knocking on the other side. 

        I felt the heat as I saw a small fire starting on the other corner of the room. Whatever has caused it to ignite, I have no idea. 

        “Oh shit” I fumbled around as he stopped knocking and started shouting again. 

        “What’s going on?” 

        I was lucky to find a fire extinguisher nearby and I nervously tried to put out as much as I could. The extinguisher ran out soon but I managed to buy a little time. 

        “Man, I need you to stand away from the door okay? I’ll try to knock on the knob” 

        “Thank you thank you. Please, my name’s Andrew” 

        I took the extinguisher and lifted it up a little and hit the knob. The smoke got into my eyes and I coughed. 

        “Miss, what do you think you’re doing?” a loud voice came behind me. 

        I turned around to see a fireman rushing to my side. 

        “You need to get out now, the fire is still ongoing” he tried to pull me away. 

        “There’s someone in there. His name is Andrew, you need to get him out” I shouted. 

        “Let us handle this. Miss, you have to get out of the way” 

        I started feeling dizzy but I shook it off and bang on the door. 

        “Andrew, the fireman is here. He will save you okay?” 

        “Ok okay please save me. Thank you lady” 

        Then I half collapsed on the floor.

        “Miss? Come on, look at me. I need you to be conscious. We’ll get you to the hospital right away, you have taken in too much smoke. We got to keep you alive okay? ” he gripped my shoulders. 

        “Please just save that poor man. I’m okay, I’ll be okay” I struggled to stand up. 

        I felt myself being pulled roughly to the side and watched as two other firemen rushed in to knock down the door. I watched as the door opened and they helped out Andrew who was coughing badly. I sighed with relief as we were both lead out quickly from the building. We were rushed into the ambulance and I saw Andrew being strapped on with his oxygen mask. He mouthed ‘ thank you’ repeatedly to me as I gave him a small smile. 

        “You’re going to be alright ok miss? We’re going to get to the hospital soon. Everything is going to be okay” the fireman nodded with a confident smile. 

        I nodded back…. 

        “Ava?”

        “Hmm?”I turned around. 

        “I got to go now. I’ll be back for lunch” 

        I nodded as my eyes were still fixed on the news. A house in Netherlands was on fire but luckily no one was injured. He was also watching the news.

        “Thank you for saving me” he smiled. 

        “How did I save you? I didn’t do anything” I rolled my eyes with a smile. 

        “You were there when everything was hopeless. Your courage, your bravery, your determination, your friendship, your compassion was everything I love you for and more. Thank you for showing me that, for being you and loving me back as you are” 

        “It was fate huh when I met you. If I had just walked away and ignored the shouting ..” 

        “Then I might not have met you” he laughed. 

        I chuckled ” As much as I love to hear more, you need to get to work but please be careful” I held his hands in mine. 

        “I will always return home to both of you” he put his hand on my flat belly for a second. 

        I nodded too as he grabbed his bag and his sooty helmet from the floor before walking out.  

          1. Jay

            It’s not just curse words. It can be something as simple as a phrase that triggered the SPAM filter. Curse words are the most comment issue, but it could be anything, really.

            It’s odd that it’s telling you that you’re making a duplicate comment, which suggests that maybe your story is awaiting moderation? That doesn’t make sense to me since you can post other comments just fine, but it’s a possibility.

            Writer’s Digest uses the WordPress platform. The wordpress SPAM filter is a real sore area for a lot of people recently. No doubt, Writer’s Digest has had some hand in making the Spam filter worse because some people in the last few years couldn’t play nice. (some even getting down right racist again WD staff, including Brian Klems).

          2. Tysheena Jackson

            Sometimes your story might get caught up in the spam filter, as many of mine have, but if you email Brian Klems he will locate and allow it to post. Sorry for your troubles!

          3. pinkbamboo

            How do I email Brian? It’s so odd, it’s not letting me post. I’ve encountered this with two other prompts late last year – which after multiple days of trying it went through but by then a new prompt had came out.

  21. A.S.P.

    Ears ringing from the shrill alarm, I flick my half burned cigarette to the pavement. Heading from the alley to the front of the youth center I watch a group of teens, disgruntled at having to put down their video games and tablets, shuffle to the curb, escorted by a handful of staff reminding them of proper evacuation procedures.

    A drill today? I check the schedule on my phone, but all it says is “quit smoking, jack*ss.”

    Right.

    I scan the curb for Sylver. Not there.

    Shi*t.

    I find him inside. Second floor above the indoor skate park, opening the bathroom door, dark brows stitched with concern. Looking for me?

    “Sorry.” I shout over the blaring alarm. “Guess I forgot to put the drill in my schedule.”

    Evidence I’m no good at this whole philanthropist thing we’ve started. How long till he realizes I’m dead weight?

    “It’s not a drill.” He shuts the bathroom door then heads down the hall at an urgent pace. I follow.

    “You lied?”

    “Yell fire and half the kids would panic.” After a quick glance inside a closet he slams the door and continues on. “The other half would go looking for it.”

    “Like you’re doing?”

    “Yep.” After a few more steps he stops, turns to me and sniffs. “I smell smoke.”

    I scowl. “Told you I quit.”

    “Not you.” He sniffs again and it’s strangely contagious so I sniff too.

    The air is different. Acrid.

    As one ours gazes dart to the back office. Smoke slithers from the small gap under the door. Crackles from inside. Then a deafening crash.

    Sylver curses, but doesn’t move.

    How he’s so d*mned calm, I don’t know. All I know is that’s our office. In the building we bought all on our own, without Royce’s corrupt shadow looming over it. And it’s on fire.

    Pulse hammering my ears, I sprint toward the door. A hand grabs my arm. Holds me back. Sylver’s firm voice yelling over the alarm.

    “We have…outside.” Something else about firefighters. Inspectors.

    “No!” I shrug out of his grip. Glare at him through eyes thatve begun to sting and water. “This is our building. Our hardwork and our lives. I’m not gonna stand on a curb and watch it burn to the ground!”

    “Jonah.” He’s a year older than me, but when his jovial expression turns stern, I feel like I’m eye to eye with my father. “You’re my oldest friend.” He sets a hand on my shoulder. “And I love you. That’s why I’m gonna let you pick. Walk out of this building like a grown man. Or be sucker punched, thrown over my shoulder, then carried out like a sack of dog food. You’re choice, buddy.”

    A minute later we’re standing on the curb, watching the second floor windows shatter. Watching flames lick the fresh oxygen and grow from the nourishment.

    My hands curl into fists. Teeth clamped so tight it hurts. I don’t look at Sylver when I talk. Can’t stomach it. “You would’ve hit me?”

    “If it means keeping you alive I’d hit you til I couldn’t recognize you. Buildings can be replaced, Jonah. You can’t.”

    Despite the sweat on my brow, my insides are cold. “You know this wasn’t an accident.”

    He says nothing. Because even rhe infamous Sylvester Hughes, America’s most likelable criminal, as the news calls him, can’t deny the stench of foul play.

    “Where’re you going?” He calls when I start across the street.

    My voice is edged with venom, but my minds made up. I know it was him.

    “To pay Senator Royce a not so friendly visit.”

    1. jhowe

      Well, the good news is, you’re becoming one of my favorite writers. I love your style. I’ll admit though, that I got confused with what’s going on. I still like it though. Love all the smoking references. More good news: I really enjoyed reading this even if I didn’t get it completely. You were right to euthanize sh*t, though I’m certain you can say jackass and damn. The filter on here is confusing, to put it nicely. So, coming from a guy who freely mixes past and present tense with no shame, that’s my critique.

      1. A.S.P.

        Wow! Thanks jhowe, what a wonderful compliment. It’s definitely a flaw of mine translating what’s in my head clearly for those who are not. Basically, though, Jonah suspects the fire was intentional, orchastrated by the senator our two former cons turned philanthropists used to *ahem* “work” for. Hope that helps clear things up a bit. Oh and thanks for the censorship tips. They were mighty damn appreciated.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Hello A. S. P., There’s more news from my way. Your style is unique and crisp. I love internal thought messages like you use, enriches the story. that’s why I sit in past tense from the POV character. One little trick I do, I review for mistakes and sloppy words first, them put the story to sleep for a few hours and attack a second time. In describing action scenes, I’m prone to slip in present tense some time but I try with a second read to eliminate.

          That;’s the tech stuff. What you have really going for you is the reality of what you write, that’s most important to my way of thinking. Even fantasy needs to sound real even with ghosts and monsters.

          1. A.S.P.

            I’m usually too quick to press submit. Next time I’ll take your excellent advice and sleep on it for a few hours and inspect a second time before sending it out there. This sight is wonderful and I’m truly grateful for such thourough and thoughtful constructive criticism.

    2. Tysheena Jackson

      Wow! I’m standing there with both men watching all of this go down. Your voice for both characters and throughout the story, and your description is just fantastic! I always look forward to your writings. Now… just waiting to hear about that visit between Senator Royce and him.

    3. Jay

      Enjoyed your story, as stunted as it is… and by that I mean it feels incomplete, like there’s more coming.

      An opportunity to really usher in a good comical moment would have been to go from the ultimatum to them standing outside, Sylver rubbing his left eye. Also, for a guy who owns a business, he sure is quick to want to put out a fire when insurance will more than make up for it. Sylver seems like one of those guys who just acts without even thinking, but then there are scenes that contradict that. So who knows?

      Anyway, wish it was complete, but I imagine there’s more coming so at least there’s that to look forward to… Senator’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

      Thanks for sharing!

  22. dustymayjane

    The coolness of the leather sofa chilled me when my bare arms rested upon it. The air conditioning was cranked down to give the staff a comfortable environment as they bustled around the office, often with a sweater over their shoulders. I wondered at that absurdity of people and thought how I’d rather be back home, snuggled into my pillow and favorite blanket, watching a good movie. I’d choose a film with a happy ending. One where the girl won her prince and lived happily ever after. One without fodder for nightmares. Nothing to cause me to wake to my own screams.

    “So Agatha. You’ve been having repetitive dreams. Would you like to talk about them?”

    Doctor Snidley’s booming voice startled me and I jerked out of my thoughts. Weren’t psychologists usually soft spoken… like godmothers?

    “Ye..yes. I guess.” I start weakly. “I..I’m…it’s always the same, ever since I was overlooked for a promotion at work.” I shivered and noticed he wore a thick cardigan. I wished I had my own sweater that hung over the back of my desk chair, the tired old one that was slightly tight, a size too small.

    “Please continue Agatha.” His long silver pen reflected the light and sent sparkles across the room as he wrote something in his notebook. Assuming it was about me, I became agitated, certain he already thought I was crazy.

    I close my eyes and began again. “It’s a normal day. I’m seated at my desk waiting for the clock to strike twelve noon so I can run out for lunch. That’s when I smell smoke and the fire alarm blares. I watch as everyone files calmly towards the exits. I try to take steps to safety but am rooted to the floor. I hear music and step freely from my shoes. In the arms of a stranger, I’m waltzing around the room. A string quartet is playing a lovely waltz. Voices come from inside a nearby office. We waltz towards it. Flames and smoke engulf us. I’m frightened, suddenly finding myself inside the burning office. My dance partner becomes Mr. Dolan, my boss. He’s laughing and pointing at me. “You’ll never wear my shoes!” He snarls in disgust.”

    I paused, not wanting to tell more. Doctor Snidely was looking at his cell phone, unaware that I had stopped. I grew angry at being ignored and was reminded of my boss. I cut the telling short.

    “That’s when I stab my boss and wake up screaming.”

    He looked up from his device. His blank expression told me he had no interest in me or my dream.

    “What does it mean?” I ask.

    He rattled off some psycho babble I’d heard many times. “Dreams can be suppressed thoughts from our wakeful times or wishes buried deep in our subconscious.”

    A surge of dark emotion rushed through me. Without conscience, I pull a knife from my pocket and easily slice the doctor’s throat.

    At home I find my pillow and blanket. I hit play on my remote and watched Cinderella again.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’ll give a quick diagnosis, it’s called “Hallmark Fever”, my own wife has it. “Don’t talk about this, don’t talk about that,” she tells me. Keep it nice. How do keep it nice when your longtime friend has a brain bleed stroke? Your next to last sentence makes this a dynamite story. Be careful of Hallmark, they run Christmas movies the whole month of July. Weird?

    1. Jay

      “Agnes Agatha, Germaine, and Jack…”

      Thanks… now I’ve got Biz stuck in my head. Curse the 80s!

      Anyway, I really enjoyed your story. Nice descriptions, and solid dialog. 🙂

    2. jhowe

      Geezomighty. That was good. There were so many great tidbits, like the way she recounted her dream, to the line, “Weren’t psychologists usually soft spoken… like godmothers?” and then the shocking conclusion. Very good storytelling, Dusty. Not bad for a Vikings fan.

  23. Kerry Charlton

    `THE FLATIRON BUILDING

    David Worthington III, gazed out the twenty second floor of the Flatiron Building. His interest peaked as he noticed pedestrians at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway looking skyward toward his corner set of windows.

    ‘Why?‘ he wondered, then the stillness was shattered by the fire alarm which rang through the entire floor. ‘Not good‘ he realized as he directed his publishing company’s employees who filled the exit door to the hallway. Smoke had begun to seep through the walls like curdled buttermilk and floated toward the ceiling.

    He was almost overrun by scared humanity who rushed toward the stairwell leading to 22 sets of descending stairs. He stopped suddenly when he saw the door to Janet’s office, burst into flames. A blood curdling scream penetrated the steel door and boxed his ears. He ran as close to the door as he dared and yelled back,

    “Janet, I’m coming for you. Throw a chair through a window and lean over and breathe. I’m going to break the door down .and get you out.”

    He rushed toward the nearest fire extinguisher, as he fought the crowd going the other way. ‘Impossible’, he realized, as he was driven back from the extinguisher. ‘There is one way.’

    He pulled his 38 police special from his coat pocket and fired two shells into the ceiling which was concrete and the crowd of people froze in step.

    “Either help me or get shot. I need five men immediately.”

    Seven stepped forward,

    “Two of you grab fire extinguishers, the rest of you go to the print room and roll the large copier down here. Now move!”

    The door was sprayed and the fire beat back. Janet would not answer his call. Space was cleared and the seven men plus David backed the copier away from the door as far as possible and then rushed forward as fast as it would go. On hinge fell off and the door shattered but had melted to the frame. So they tried a second time and succeeded as the door flew off.

    Smoke and fumes filled the hall as David rushed to Janet. Bob Bullock followed David inside and they picked her up and continued to the stairwell. They paused at the landing as David put his lips to Janet’s and started mouth to mouth. She choked and then started to breathe again. By now, David had carried her to the second floor, down twenty flights and she opened her eyes,

    “I need more oxygen, please,” and he readily obliged her as they walked out the entry door. He looked up and saw the entire top floors in flame as they walked to safety across Fifth Avenue. Dave continued to hold Janet in his arms, knowing she could stand on her own.

    She cuddled against his chest,

    “Did it take a fire for you to finally notice me Dave.?“

    “Not hardly, I think you’re beautiful with soot on your face”

    He kissed her a second time and the crowd faded into the background with the magic of a kiss.
    . .

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you A. S. P.I really enjoyed writing it.You’re probably right about David being part Super Hero. Carrying someone down.22 flights of stairs would really be a feat. And at the same time, giving CPR

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Fast-paced, suspenseful AND romantic– how can it be!? Loving your story, Kerry! Something is definitely going to begin between these two, I can just see it. 🙂

    2. Jay

      Nice, Kerry. I really enjoyed your take on the prompt. Romance. Action. Romantical action. What else can you ask for? You stories always have a little bit of romance in them, even if someone happens to be romancing the devil. Well done.

    3. snuzcook

      My favorite lines:

      He pulled his 38 police special from his coat pocket and fired two shells into the ceiling which was concrete and the crowd of people froze in step.
      “Either help me or get shot. I need five men immediately.”
      Seven stepped forward.

      and

      “I need more oxygen, please,” and he readily obliged…”

      Nuff said…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks igomzales81
        This was do easy to write, i put my allter igo straight into the MC and started to write. I can not imagine anyone carrying another person down 22 flights of stairs and then I remember what strength people are able to draw on in.life or death situations. I wish I could have placed David’s back story before the action started but word count, it’s always word count

  24. Pete

    I’m deep in the tunnels of Vita-Life when I hear an alarm. Another walk through, I suppose, so what do I care? Just yesterday I walked out of the Aldridge Room with a fancy notebook explaining my severance package. Seems there’s no need for three facilities guys anymore. And so the old man gets the ax.

    Budget cuts. Yet the training rooms are full of kids with sagging skinny jeans who are physically unable to place a package in a microwave and pay attention for three freaking minutes to be sure things turn out all right. But it’s not burned popcorn I’m smelling. Smoke. People fussing and scampering for the doors like the place is going to blow. Guys running like girls, girls running like guys who run like girls because who even can keep up anymore.

    I look around. It’s chaos. For all that talk of teamwork and synergy and delivery pipelines, it all comes down to primal instinct. Get the hell out of there. But through it all I hear a scream that snaps me cold. Because it’s precisely the one I’ve been hearing in my nightmares.

    In the break room, I make out a body on the floor. I crouch and my knees remind me who’s boss. It’s Justine Woodruff, from LTC, in the corner, unconscious. I rush in, using my sleeve to cover my nose. I make a point to keep my eyes down. Out of the smoke and away from how her skirt is riding up on her legs. All I’m saying is that I keep my eyes down.

    She’s groggy but alive. A quick scan shows that it looks like it happened where Tommy Dunce installed the fancy new coffee maker. And I’m the one getting canned.

    I scoop her up. On her wrist is not a fancy watch but an epilepsy bracelet. Justine is fit from all that yoga garbage she’s always doing, but she’s a hell of a lot heavier than she looks. Or maybe I’ve just become a weak old man who starts daydreaming in the middle of a raging fire.

    I carry her to the door, her head rolling around in my arms. We’ve spoken a few times, when I fixed the treadmill in the gym. She’s about ten years younger than me, a hell of a lot better looking, and probably likes men who drink wine. Justine always looks put together, least when she’s not groaning into my chest. She was so nice that day though, even had me thinking of asking her out until I got to the bathroom and saw myself in the mirror. A woman’s smile can start a lot of hoping.

    Alarms all over the place. Part of me only wants to make it out so that I can watch this place burn proper. I take the shortest route through the thickest of smoke. Damn place is burning up quick. Justine’s shaking her head, panicking. I start humming to her, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic.” It’s the first thing that hops in my head. Seems to work.

    My back is making threats. Then the sprinklers hit and it’s the Mekong Delta all over again. By now the lyrics have come to me, and I’m singing and wet and Justine’s white blouse is nearly soaked through but I’m telling you again that I ain’t that guy.

    My lungs burn, but I see the door. Justine’s ain’t looking too good, struggling and she might need some help. I can hear the sirens now, out in the parking lot. But that’s about fifty feet between me and the door. One knee buckles so I drag it along.

    I hit daylight. Fall to my knees but keep Justine’s head in my palm. The EMT’S rush in and take her. I remember making sure they’ve got her. That’s how my last day of work ends.

    A few weeks later I’m out in the garden. “Do You Believe in Magic” on the radio. In a car. Justine’s Honda pulling up to the curb. My knees beg for mercy.

    She shields the sunlight with her hands. She thanks me for getting her out of the fire. I shrug, mumble, and try to fix my hair because it’s been a long time since I had a woman at the house. Justine says she’d like to repay me. Wants to take me out to dinner. That smile playing with my hope again, I nod and say that would be fine. She starts smiling.

    “You mean now?”

    She shrugs. That bracelet catching the sun. “Unless you got a job to get to.”

    I like a woman with a sense of humor. And nice legs–not that I’m looking–but that helps too.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Pete, this may be the softest and sweetest love story I ever read. I wish I could write with that kind of finesse. I really liked this because it reads like real life. I’m not so sure you didn’t pick a woman that you know, it seems so real. Did I hit a soft spot? Or is she sitting next to you while you write.?

    2. Tysheena Jackson

      This is the sweetest story I’ve read this week! How adorable, that a man at his age can still hope and dream and be wishful. Love is never-ending, and everyone deserves love. Beautiful story, Pete!

    3. snuzcook

      I love the irony of the last day of your MC’s job, and the beginning of a new relationship. Your MC’s frame of reference analogies are great. Bravo!

  25. jhowe

    From the 22nd floor of the south tower, I watch in horror as a plane speeds toward the neighboring building. At first there is no sound but then a rumbling roar and the screams of people on my floor explode in my ears. I see people pouring out onto the sidewalks from the north tower as black smoke billows above, marring the perfect sky. I sit numb at my desk, afraid to move.

    An alarm sounds and a voice on the public address system announces that we remain in the building. Seconds later the same voice says we are to evacuate immediately. I run toward the bank of elevators along with everyone else. I decide to take the stairs and then the floor quakes and a deafening growl fills the space. Alarms sound and people swarm for the stairs as the lights go out. In the glow of the emergency lighting, we claw our way down the flights as more and more crowd the stairway.

    I see a woman lying beside a toppled wheelchair. She is small and she wraps her arms around my neck when I pick her up. It slows me down but I push on, fighting for every opportunity to advance downward. At last we reach the ground floor. Firefighters lead us to the exit, shouting orders I can’t understand. A police officer tries to help me with the woman but I refuse, running the best I can with her in my arms. I hardly notice her weight any longer.

    We burst into the sunlight and I hear her crying, feel her tears on my neck. We’re told to keep moving away from the building. Hundreds of us advance as one in the streets. At 9:59 am the south tower collapses. Dust and ruble rain on us which spurs me to run again. My legs are on fire, my breath coming in ragged bursts and I finally set the woman down on a grassy berm. I don’t know where we are.

    We turn and look at the gaping hole in the skyline with smoke rising, spreading across the city. And then the north tower begins to collapse, as if in slow motion. We stare at the impossible sight and then look into each other’s eyes. I see a sparkle, a hint of hope amidst the death and destruction. I pick her up again and start to walk east. A street sign reveals our location and I turn toward my apartment, eager for sanctuary. Along the way she tells me her name and I introduce myself to my future wife.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Good story John, I see you revolving into a Hallmark writer. Lord knows they need better scripts.
        We should team up, go to the west coast and make a fortune. At leart $400.00 a week. Can you live in LA on that money. Whoa!!!

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      This… this is sheer perfection. The angst, the horror, the hope but most of all– the jarring reality. An event that has forever stained the garments of the American people. By the way, have you thought about writing screenplays and/or directing? With your voice, detail and eye I’m sure that you can create something magical!

      1. jhowe

        That was certainly pleasant to read, Thanks. I’d love to write a screenplay, but I don’t know how. Plus, I’m too nice to direct. I’d tell someone to do something, she’d say no way, and I’d say ok.

  26. JRSimmang

    THE WALLS CAN TALK

    Silly mortals, fire is for kids.

    I was finally able to locate The Portal to Hades, Porto ad Infernos, in an old office building that was used primarily for antiquated means of mass communication. Social media, I think they called it. A face on a screen? That makes a connection? No. A connection is spirit to spirit. A connection is touch.

    The doorway had been lit, which meant that something was about to go through.

    Me.

    Clever, though, they are. Cause panic upon your grand entrance, so when you arrive, people are already scared, causing even more panic. Just what a daemon would want, that’s what the books say anyhow.

    Through the throng of people pushing past one another, stumbling over one another, elbowing one another, I feel like a salmon travelling upstream. No. I feel like a skier tumbling through an avalanche, a dung beetle collapsing under the weight of his dung ball.

    Their faces! When faced with an imminent danger, one that has been overrehearsed, they look almost placid, almost as if to say, “this again? Make it to the exits safely and in an orderly fashion, and then I can get back to surfing game sites and bidding for a set of blinds on eBay.”

    I reach into my satchel for my vellum-bound Libri Quattuor and turn it to “Protections and Sigils,” and read it while I navigate the hallways. I sniff brimstone, so cliche, so I know I am getting close. The halls rumble, which I know is a sign of something big, and the screaming increases as I get higher and higher.

    Part of me wants to rush to help. Part of me knows that it’s the hook. It’s the siren’s call.

    I see the door in the corner, and I start to shake. Finally, I think to myself.

    “I think I’m scared,” I say out loud.

    You are, the door replies, and I begin my incantation.

    The first sigils, the eye in the double-lined triangle and the hound’s fangs in a squeezed rectangle, begin to glow around my head. My vision shakes, and the hallway blurs, and the doorway shimmers blue and black. The rest of the hall becomes a shade, wispy grey and luminous. I feel my throat burn and my teeth sharpen.

    Not bad for a first time spellcaster. The Cadre would be proud.

    The door doesn’t exist, and the screams are in my head. The third sigil appears, the hands embracing a sphere, and the only sound I hear is my breath, which comes in ragged and quick.

    I step forward, and the ground shakes again. With every step I take toward the door, the heat burns hotter.

    I reach out to the portal, and hesitate. I was called. I was chosen. I have a mission.

    The doorway is cold, oddly, and a sudden calm comes over me. I feel a wave of relief, and my body begins to move of its own volition. Why do I want to go? Why do I want to see this? My heart leaps for joy at the thought!

    The last sigil, the silver breastplate begins to appear. It’s beautiful, and I feel fear. I feel fear for the first time in what feels like a decade. Why now? It comforts me. I feel it’s magnificent warmth washing me clean. Cleaner than I have ever been. I am strong. I am unafraid. I am determined to end the destruction before it begins. I will be fine.

    The sigil struggles, it blinks, then it fizzles out into a puff of smoke.

    It leaves me in an instant, and I am falling into an abyss. I cannot see the end, and the darkness is in me. It pokes at my flesh, punctures my skin, and scorches my liver, my lungs, my entrails. Knives cut my flesh, and I scream out into a void. Can it hear me?

    A light shines in the distance.

    The meadow spreads before me before I can get my feet, and I fall to the ground, inhaling the aroma of fresh mint and clover.

    I can hear her sweet voice, lilting like lunt on the breeze. Everything is slightly out of focus, a diaphanous glimmering surrounding everything in an aura. The eye in the triangle pulses blue. She must wait. There’s an army I have to stop.

    -JR Simmang

  27. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    My Hero!

    “So everything is going all normal like it always does. We’re just filing out one by one, waddling the black and white waddle of penguins, when all of the sudden there’s this really loud scream. And I mean like really loud. Like, this wasn’t your typical ‘I dropped my favorite mug’ shriek that I’d heard many times at work before. No, this was closer to a ‘A serial killer is smiling at me and licking his knife’ kind of scream that’s usually reserved only for horror movies.

    So, I hear this scream, and I sorta stop and arch my eyebrows and look all around, putting on my best ‘Oh dear!’ face, but then the dude in back of me, some dude I don’t even recognize, is all like
    “Keep the line moving, there’s a fire!”

    And then I’m like, “Yeah. I know,” and I keep on walking, but in the back of my head I’m thinking, I know I just heard someone screaming, from inside the office, and this dudes yelling at me to keep walking.

    Thus, I came to the logical conclusion that this dude behind me was totally the serial killer licking his knife, or maybe an arsonist or whatever. Look, I don’t know what his problem was, I just used my detective skills to deduce that he was definitely into some supervillain type stuff.

    I just keep on walking, but in my head I’m like, How am I gonna stop this dude? I gotta do something, or that lady in there will die.

    And then it hits me like an anvil that I’ve gotta run in and save the source of that scream. So, I sorta stop again, trying to consider my next move, and the supervillain behind me goes

    “There. Is. A. Fire. You can’t just quit walking.”

    But he had no clue that as he carefully annunciated every word of his sentence my gears were turning and as soon as he finished I executed my master plan. This plan consisted of me turning around, shouting at the dude behind me ‘You’re fired!’, and then running straight back into the office building.

    So, like, yeah. I got him good.

    Anyway, so I get to the door and there’s smoke pouring from every edge of the thing, and flames are shooting at me like the things a dang dragon. But, I macho up and run straight in, and I see the lady and I grab her hand and I’m all like

    “Come on, you need to get out of here!”

    And she’s like, “Yup. But the door is falling.” So, I go straight into action mode and right before the door can fall and chuck her out onto the pavement, saving her but leaving me to die.

    And, then I died, and now I am here.”

    “So… you think you should get into Heaven for saving a lady?”

    “Yeah. And stopping that supervillain.”

    “Dude, I’m God. I know you just fell asleep at your desk.”

    “Oh… Whoops.”

    1. snuzcook

      Very entertaining, Riley! Who hasn’t tried to embellish a little to make the best out of an awkward situation? I loved your penguin reference.

  28. snuzcook

    AN ORDERLY EVACUATION

    It was an orderly evacuation. No one really believed there could be a fire, at least not one of any significance. It was just another drill, with the added sound effects of a siren in the street down below.

    The odd metallic quality to the flashing lights and the shrieking alarm made it impossible to focus my thoughts. There was something I was forgetting. I rushed back up against the flow of people calmly pushing out the stairway door. My purse. I wanted to get my purse. Oh, can’t someone shut off that alarm!

    Back on the main corridor to my office I got the first whiff of smoke, a faint sharpness in the back of my throat, and a vague haziness to the ceiling lights. One of the heavy fire doors was swinging shut and I squeezed by. The solid slam as the door swung shut was deafening as the blaring alarm suddenly went silent.

    I had to hurry now. What was I after? Oh, yes. I had to get my purse. The haziness was everywhere. At the end of the corridor I must turn left, but to the left near my office, the haze took on an orange glow. Still oddly disoriented from the alarm, I knew the orange did not belong there, but I couldn’t quite think of what might be causing it.

    Another light was glowing now, a green light. Dispersed by the haze, the green EXIT light was very bright, a beacon to safety. I could turn right and follow the exit and leave this place. I could follow the exit and rejoin the procession down the back stairs of the building.

    What was I there for, all alone? Why had I come back? Oh yes, my purse. I looked into the orange glow and could see behind the textured glass of my closed office door that there were moving shapes, flames disguised as people milling about, ceiling tiles and vent works dropping to block the door. I heard a voice–or was it the heat pulling shrieks from the metal—pleading to me. The smoke was very thick now. Why wasn’t the sprinkler on? It should be pouring water on the flames. It should be fighting the smoke with its cooling mist.

    I backed toward the exit behind me. I could now feel the heat reaching through the closed door, crawling above me in the ceiling. I heard a voice, a scream from inside the glass. I felt the scream tearing at my own raw vocal chords. Then an explosion: the exclamation of the fire and the surrounding structure achieving a new equilibrium.

    I became aware of myself sitting on one of the benches in the little garden behind the building. I was encased in a cocoon of silence and light that coalesced in to shapes and sounds. People were milling around close to me, but their voices sounded far away. My assistant walked by, talking to someone in a dark uniform. I saw the fire crew packing up their equipment and stowing it on the trucks. Some of them were stripping out of their heavy outer gear. The pavement around the building was wet, but the sun was shining. Time must have passed while I was unconscious. I noticed a policeman walk out of the building holding my purse. There was a large scorched hole in it. I watched as he placed it in a bag, and placed the bag on top of a cart covered in plastic. Why would he do that? No, it wasn’t a cart; it was a gurney. There was something inside that plastic. The bag and the gurney belonged together. Yes, of course.

    I rose from the bench. The feeling of having forgotten something was still there, vaguely, but it didn’t seem urgent anymore. In fact, there was no more sense of urgency at all. Gradually all the people and the cars went away leaving the garden, leaving the wounded building, leaving me to the peace of the gentle night. I would stay here for now, in this pleasant little garden, until it was time to be somewhere else.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Your story is full of sensory and it’s well-written. While reading it I felt like I was the character witnessing and experiencing everything happening to her. Great job on this one, snuzcook!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I knew. She was a spirit as soon as she mentioned the explosion. It seemed like I was your. MC or at least. Standing next to her with a knowing sense she was going to die
        The word powerful is a perfect one work critique on your story. We all hope for a painless exit from this world, you’ve just written how. A very unusual response snuz and one that will stick.for a long time

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Kerry. Can’t get one past you. But when was she first a spirit? Why did she feel like she’d left something behind, but such a vague feeling? Why was trying to get her purse so important?

  29. SargentBlaum

    Frank approached the door timidly, although his expression broadcast resolution.

    “Hey – who’s in there?”

    “Help! Help! The door is stuck, and we’re too far off the ground to use the window.”

    Frank had already armed himself with the carbon dioxide extinguisher, and using his size 12 Doc Martens, he kicked the door hard: it fell to pieces revealing a smoke filled room, with flames that leaped up to meet his approach. Deftly, Frank directed the extinguisher and let loose a stream of white fluff at the base of the flames. They defied him, remaining steady and even moving toward him via the carpet.

    Frank jumped over the worst of it and landed in the room beyond, holding his breath as he scanned the interior. Daniel, the man who usually worked this office, was lying on the floor, coughing. Near to the door was a large cardboard box, with a shipping label – the packing peanuts were all over the floor, feeding the fire.

    In the center of the room was some kind of robot: multiple limbs connected to the central column that moved about on wheels. Each limb ended in what appeared to be the nozzle of a flamethrower, and on it’s top was the fuel tank. Frank stared at it gormlessly, the flames far enough away to leave him sweating but unburned. Then the robot made a noise again, sounding like the proverbial damsel in distress. First, it screamed, and then that same desperate call that had summoned him:

    “Help! Help! The door is stuck, and we’re too far off the ground to use the window.”

    After this plaintive wail, it lifted several of its limbs. Frank didn’t wait to see what that entailed: he hoisted Daniel in a fireman’s lift, sprayed the robot with what the extinguisher had left and headed for the door, his foot getting snagged on the cardboard box on the way out. He dragged the shipping label and his colleague with him, all the way down the stairs and out the building, warning the arriving firemen of the flame throwing robot in the office.

    He left Daniel with the paramedics and then scraped the label off his boot. He couldn’t distinguish much – it was too blackened by the fire. He turned to look at Daniel who was coughing less, verified that he’d live, before asking a question.

    “Daniel: since when did Amazon start selling pyromaniacal robots?”

    “Beats me – it was supposed to be a new coffee machine for the office.”

    Frank glanced up to the window of Daniel’s office. “I’d say that one failed the quality control stage, wouldn’t you?”

    “I dunno – perhaps that black tar stuff it sprayed around was super strong cappuccino?”

    “I doubt adding whipped cream would improve the flavor much, based on our experience.”

    “Probably a refurbished model. I’ll insist on something new when I do the return.”

    “You really think they will take that one back?”

    “I’d say it’s definitely decaffeinated, wouldn’t you?”

    1. snuzcook

      That was a clever take, SargentBlaum! Devastation wrought by addiction to gentri-coffee and unwavering trust in the institution of consum-ification (=consumer instant gratification). By the way, thank you for my new vocabulary word: Gormlessly.

  30. Jay

    The Downward Spiral

    The office is anything but quiet. Indeed, it is quiet in the sense that there are no words, but there are still the pervasive sounds of people clicking their mice, poking their keyboards, clearing their throats, and other tiny sounds that will make a man go insane. I don’t want to be insane. I just want to bide my time, make my money, and get the f*ck out of here. Therefore, I put on a pair of headphone so I can walk away from this place without losing my sh*t.

    Hey pig…

    I look at the woman sitting at the desk next to mine. She makes the most racket. She’s always noisily digging her hand into a bag of chips, crunching and munching until I grind me teeth into dust. She notices me looking at her, turns, and offers me a thin smile. Around her mouth are small flakes and orange powdery remnants from the Cheetos she brought today. I look away, pinch the bridge of my nose, and try to will her image out of my mind, but it persists.

    Yeah you…

    As I settle back into the groove of work, I feel the overwhelming urge to sleep. My eyes grow heavier and heavier until at some point, I close them. I don’t remember shutting my eyes, but by the sound of someone intentionally clearing their throat to get someone else’s attention, I immediately open them.

    Hey pig piggy pig pig pig…

    Pam is standing in front of my desk. She’s in her fifties, tall, lanky, diabetic. She likes to much throughout the day, which is the only reason the b*tch caught me. She has a handful of snacks from a nearby machine, and she’s ruminating on them while trying to talk at the same time. The sound is disgusting.

    She says, “Sleeping on the job?”

    All of my fears came true..

    I probably look like a deer caught in the middle of the road, headlights playing across my face, the sound of the horn blaring. Will this car hit me? Take me out? Put me out of my misery? No such luck. I’m still in my office. Alive.

    I say, “No, sorry. Won’t happen again.”

    “Okay, see that it doesn’t. Get yourself some coffee and come see me in my office. We need to talk.”

    Great. I gently nod, but there’s a fury inside me that makes me want to scream, to tackle the b*tch and bang her head into the ground until she realizes that I’m tired because of problems at home. While I agree we should never bring our problems to work—and of course vice versa—sometimes you just can’t escape the horrors of your life. It will follow you everywhere.

    Black and blue and broken bones you left me here I’m all alone…

    Two days prior, my wife left me. I used to be a loving, caring man. This man you know now, this sh*tty excuse for a human being who thrives on cynicism, was always me. However, because of her, I now live to hate, and love to live in that world as much as I hate it all. Naturally, it makes it worse that she left me for another man. A worse man. Well, a man who is actually worse than the old me. The new me is scores below the new beaux, but that doesn’t matter now.

    My little piggy needed something new…

    The icing on the cake is that she still works in my office. She’s the office manager, a ginger with a kickin’ attitude. I plan to tell her on the way out of the office today how much I hate her; I hope she dies. I want her to suffer as much as I suffer.

    Nothing can stop me now…

    I stand and stuff the cord of my headphones into my pocket. The music plays from my iPhone, which will make the walk to the coffee machine much easier. As I pass the chip muncher, I watch her dig her portly hand into the tiny bag. It was nice and silent.

    I don’t care anymore…

    In the break room, it smells like burnt coffee. Probably Jeff left the warmer on high again. D*ck. The coffee is going to be gross, but I know I have to suck it up. I can’t fall asleep, least of all in my bosses office while she either fires me or bitches me out. Probably she’ll fire me because she’s my ex’s friend. B*tches like to stick together.

    Hey pig…

    I’m not in the room five minutes before the portly b*tch walks through the door. I’m mid-pour when she smiles at me. Her teeth are orange, caked with thick mountains of Cheetos. F*ck me. I know she has a crush, but now she’s stalking me. Ugh, Why?

    Nothing’s turning out the way I planned…

    She says something, but I don’t hear her. She motions for me to take off my headphones so I can, and I do. I hate myself for it.

    She says, “I needed a coffee break, too. Hate havin’ the Mondays.”

    She sniggers. I feign a laugh. I wonder if it was obvious?

    Honestly, I wish she were someone I could talk to, someone that could carry a good conversation, maybe walk me through some things so I can eventually find myself traveling down a road of enlightenment.

    Hey pig there’s a lot of things I hoped you could help me understand…

    No, I don’t. Sounds like a lot of work. I just smile as she talks. I miss half of what she’s saying because I had already turned the volume back up. After watching her put a cup of sugar in her coffee and two ounces of creamer, I walk away.

    That’s when I hear it. The fire alarm. Then I see it. The lights flashing against the walls like beacon, but instead they’re warning signals that if I don’t get out of the building, I will die. Sounded like a good deal, but I’m afraid of a fiery, and don’t want to go out like that. P*ssy.

    There are screams, probably people freaking out. Company policy is that if there were ever any major business damage that forces us out of work for a while, they would pay us, anyway. So, I don’t care. I just calmly walk toward the front of the office, and that’s when I see the smoke coming out of my ex-wife’s office.

    Standing at her door, I peered in. Between the hallway and her door, I had turned my music up to avoid hearing all the alarms and screaming. It isn’t for me. Perhaps If had left it at a lower volume, I might hear my wife screaming, but instead I don’t. I see her, though. She’s on fire in her office, banging her arms against the desk, trying to put out the flames. She might have been able to put it out if she had stopped, dropped, and rolled… wait… who am I kidding? There isn’t enough room in her office with all her sh*t in there.

    What am I supposed to do I lost my sh*t because of you…

    I don’t help her. I just stare. On her face, I can see her begging for me, pleading for me to help. The smell of flesh and plastic and fabric burn my nose. God, it’s awful. She stops screaming.

    Nothing can stop me now…

    I walk out of the office. The fresh air is nice.

    I don’t care anymore

    I walk to the edge of the street. The view is nice. A truck is coming. The satisfaction of losing my ex-wife was strangely amazing, and yet… I still hate myself. The truck was coming closer. Faster.

    Nothing can stop me now…

    I step into the road.

    …I just don’t care.

    1. snuzcook

      Disturbingly vivid. Your use of the italics lines is very effective for raising the nape hairs. The ending, in this case, seems very satisfying, and written with the perfect pace.

  31. dlromano

    Why not to be the hero.

    I run down the hall and around the bend to the only office on this floor. Naturally the door was closed and locked, and being the weapons manufactures that our company is, the door is not able to be busted down. It has a reinforced steel frame with locking dead bolts at the top, bottom, and normal handle location. Flames engulfed the walls and ceiling around the door, but they wouldn’t catch on the floor. The alarm beeping was like an annoying, shrill two-year-old.

    The flames were increasing in intensity and we were on the 41st floor, no telling when someone would get here. I ran back towards the stairs and find the fire room. The door was locked, why was the fire door locked? Luckily enough it wasn’t a reinforced door and I am able to kick it open after few tries.
    The power in the building cuts out, plunging everything into darkness. It took about ten seconds for the flood lights to kick on, now everything was baked in a dim off-white color. I wish someone would cut the stupid blaring alarm. I find the water hose and go to pull the door, locked. Why do they lock the lifesaving equipment, yet leave the axe just out in the open? Do they want an axe murdered to come through here? Because if the alarms continue it just may happen.

    I bust the glass with the axe and drag the hose out into the hall. I had to run back in to turn the water on, was no one else willing to help? I hope they fall down the stairs. The hose fills up with water and I drag it around the corner. The flames have now reached halfway down the hall, but the floor still hasn’t caught fire. I wrench back on the hose handle to douse the flames in water and the water squirts out for about five seconds and then shuts out. I shake the hose, nothing.

    I turn and look and the hose had kinked onto itself as I pulled it tight. I let go of the handle and run back to untangle the kink. The hose immediately starts spewing water and flapping around the hallway. I do what I can to catch it. I caught it alright, metal handle right to the face. I already struggled to breath from the smoke, now it felt like my nose was broken too, great day. I got the hose under control and was able to hold the fire back until the fire department got there.

    I still didn’t know how they were going to get in the room, that door was unbreakable. A fireman walks by me and I laugh, no way. He steps up and swings, the axe broke straight through the wall next to the door, causing a back draft. The pain was horrific.

    (Okeru)

    1. snuzcook

      You have communicated the main character’s physical challenges and frustration very well, while keeping up the momentum of the story. The ironic ending is effective. Well done, dlromano!

  32. MoiraiTQ

    A co-worker told me it was awful. I put it into Word and fixed it up some.

    The screaming! The screaming! It’s horrible. Two people are trapped in the office! Oh the screaming!

    I pull off my shirt and drench it in the drinking fountain down the hall. I squeeze the water over my head, wetting my hair. I drench my shirt again. I pull it back on, backwards, keeping the longer part of the shirt over my mouth and nose. I sprint back down the hall way to the office. I yell to Frank and Sarah that 911 has been called and I’m trying to get in. The door knob is too hot. I yell to them to pull the door open. They are not responding. I pull my shirt off again and double it up to grab the door knob. Coughing spasms and watering eyes stop me for a few seconds.

    As I get closer to the door, the heat and smoke is really bad. Rapid thoughts start tearing into my brain! What are you doing!? You’re not a firefighter! You’re a half-naked woman who is trying to rescue people and not get killed doing it! What are you doing!?!

    I hold my breath and close my eyes as I push hard on the door knob to the conference room. Stepping back a couple of feet, I feel the searing heat come out of the room. I pull my shirt back on, still backwards, and pull it back up over my mouth and nose. Eyes watering, right hand extended, and bent over, I cautiously go into the room. My breathing is shallow so I don’t inhale too much smoke. Feeling more heat on the right side of the room, I go to the left. My left foot bumps into something soft. I reach down and touch it. It’s either Frank or Sarah. Grabbing clothing and bunching it into my closed fist, I quickly pull the person back through the door and into the hallway and away from the fire and smoke. It’s Frank. He’s breathing! I leave him there.

    I head back into the fiery furnace of the conference room. Again going to the left, left hand out, hunched over, I start to search for Sarah. The heat is almost as hot on the left as the right. I cannot go very far into the room. I step back a bit and my butt bumps the door. It doesn’t go back all the way. I spin around and close the door part of the way. Sarah is behind it! I grab her clothing and bunch it into my fist. I’m coughing much worse as I drag her through the door and into the hallway. I’m struggling to get her as far as I got Frank.

    I’m feeling faint and having difficulty breathing. Coughing, hacking, wheezing. My chest hurts.

    My feet bump into Frank in the hallway. I collapse, knowing that I’ve pulled her out. As I’m going down, I’m not sure if Sarah is breathing or not. All I know is that I’m barely breathing.

    I can hear things as I’m lying in the hallway, but I’m not making sense of everything I’m hearing. Clumping. I’m hearing clumping. My brain is trying to make sense of it, but it cannot. I hear voices. Voices and clumping. It must be the firemen. Oh crap. I’m not wearing my shirt. I’m lying here on the floor with my shirt on my head. What are they going to think about seeing me in my pants and bra?

    I feel a mask going over my mouth and nose. Fresh air! OH! FRESH AIR! The oxygen hurts going into my lungs at first. I start to cough. I’m hearing other coughing. I cannot tell if Sarah is coughing. I open my eyes and say her name into my mask. “Sarah. Is Sarah all right? Is Sarah breathing?” I’m getting lifted onto a gurney and a blanket is put over me. No one has answered my questions. No one has told me if Sarah is all right. I’m panicking, positive she’s dead. Otherwise, they’d tell me.

    I grab the shirt of the EMT. Get his attention. “IS SARAH ALIVE?!?” I yell at him. He smiles and nods his head.

    1. snuzcook

      That was fast paced and riveting, MoiraiTQ. The added dimension of the MC being self-conscious was a nice touch. For me, the first line was a bit over the top, but it certainly got the reader’s attention! Nice take on the prompt!

  33. MoiraiTQ

    The screaming! The screaming! It’s horrible. Two people are trapped in the office! Oh the screaming!

    I pull off my shirt and drench it with the drinking fountain down the hall. I squeeze the water over my head to wet my hair. I drench my shirt again. I pull it back on, backwards, keeping the longer part of the shirt over my mouth and nose. I sprint back down the hall way to the office. I yell to Frank and Sarah that 911 has been called and I’m trying to get in. The door knob is too hot. I yell to them to push the door open. They are not responding. I pull my shirt off again and double it up to grab the door knob. Coughing spasms and watering eyes stop me for a few seconds.

    As I get closer to the door, the heat and smoke is really bad. Rapid thoughs start tearing into my brain! What are you doing!? You’re not a firefighter! You’re a half naked woman who is trying to rescue people and not get killed doing it! What are you doing!?!

    I hold my breath and close my eyes as I yank on the door knob to the conference room. Stepping back a couple of feet, I feel the searing heat come out of the room. I pull my shirt back on, still backwards, and pull it back up over my mouth and nose. Eyes watering, right hand extended, and bent over, I cautiously go into the room. My breathing is shallow so I don’t inhale too much smoke. Feeling more heat on the right side of the room, I go to the left. My left foot bumps into something soft. I reach down and touch it. It’s either Frank or Sarah. I reach down with my left hand and grab clothing. Bunching it into my closed fist, I quickly pull the person back through the door and into the hallway and away from the fire and smoke. It’s Frank. He’s breathing! I leave him there.

    I head back into the fiery furnace of the conference room. Again going to the left, left hand out, hunched over, I start to search for Sarah. The heat is almost as hot on the left as the right. I cannot go very far into the room. I step back a bit and my butt bumps the door. It doesn’t go back all the way. I spin around and close the door part of the way. Sarah is behind it! Again, I grab her clothing and bunch it into my fist. I’m coughing much worse as I drag her through the door and into the hallway. I’m struggling to get her as far as I got Frank.

    I’m feeling faint and having a hard time breathing. Coughing, hacking, wheezing. My chest hurts.

    My feet bump into Frank in the hallway. I collapse, knowing that I’ve pulled her out. As I’m going down, I’m not sure if Sarah is breathing or not. All I know is that I’m barely breathing.

    I can hear things as I’m lying in the hallway, but I’m not making sense of everything I’m hearing. Clumping. I’m hearing clumping. My brain is trying to make sense of it, but it cannot. I hear voices. Voices and clumping. It must be the firemen. Oh crap. I’m not wearing my shirt. I’m lying here on the floor with my shirt on my head. What are they going to think about seeing me in my pants and bra.

    I feel a mask going over my mouth and nose. Fresh air! OH! FRESH AIR! The oxygen hurts going into my lungs at first. I start to cough. I’m hearing other coughing. I cannot tell if Sarah is coughing. I open my eyes and say her name into my mask. “Sarah. Is Sarah all right? Is Sarah breathing?” I’m getting lifted onto a gurney and a blanket is put over me. No one has answered my questions. No one has told me if Sarah is all right. I’m panicking, positive she’s dead. Otherwise, they’d tell me.

    I grab the shirt of the EMT. Get his attention. “IS SARAH ALIVE!” I yell at him. He smiles and nods his head.

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