- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.UVsgb4Gv.dpuf Erin's Alter Ego Writes Books: Let's do something slightly different

Monday, 25 November 2013

Let's do something slightly different

First of all, as tomorrow/today is the start of Death is but a Dream's blog tour from Xpresso Book Tours, I want to say thanks to everyone involved. It really means a lot and thank you.

Second, for the slightly different thing and to get our minds completely off Death is but a Dream, I'm going to post a short story I wrote for NYC Midnight. NYC Midnight is an international short story competition where you are given a genre, a location, and a subject in which to write a short story in 1000 words. It's a great exercise to step out of your comfort zone and just write within certain parameters.

I entered it with my lovely friend Caro and we both got top marks in our respective groups. We have a few rounds to see who's the winner, but I figured I should probably post it now. It's a bit different to my usual fare.

This time, I had: Science Fiction (yay!), an underwater city, and a priceless painting. And boy did I have fun with this one. Enjoy.

The Nursery Curator

 I feel nervous.
Mostly it's because I'm feeling too hot. The oxygen in my breathing apparatus tastes stale and I am sweating in my suit. My movements feel sluggish in the intense pressure of the sea floor.
I hope I'm not too late.
Three days ago, the entry hall to The Nursery, the gallery of art of our underwater city started leaking uncontrollably without warning. Diagnostics went down, and we don't even know if the door to the gallery is open. Thousands of priceless paintings are housed there; if the seal was open, then it would have been flooded. The worst part is The Nursery is only accessible through the entry hall.
I volunteered to repair it, and I really have no idea what I'm doing. After all, I'm only a museum curator. I have to go in through the outside to make sure I don't flood The Nursery.
The superheated blow torch is bright in the murky water as I trace a molten outline of a rectangular hole in the metal tube.
“You doin' okay there, Cal?” Reese, my director, asks me. Her voice is concerned, although she's trying hard not sound concerned. “Your temperature is elevated.”
Sweat beads on my brow. I wish I could wipe it away.
“Just dandy,” I answer. “How are you back on base?”
She chuckles softly. “We're fine, cowboy.”
My blow torch finishes its rectangular circuit, a few threads holding in place in the metal tube. Water is rushing in around the edges. All I need to do is kick it and I'm in the chamber. The water from the sea will fill the space, and I'll have to seal it and flush the water out of the tube before proceeding.
I hesitate.
“How do we know that the door to the gallery is sealed?” I ask. “How do we know that it's not open and I'm going to be the one who floods and ruins it all?”
There's a pregnant pause in my headset. “You won't, Cal.” Her voice is soft, reverent. She cares more about these paintings than I do.
But you don't know for sure. The unspoken words haunt me as I continue, using my weight to push against the opening. The weakened metal gives way and I'm sucked into the dark opening amidst a rush of water.
For a couple of seconds, it's chaotic. I fall into a pool of water about chest high. The water from outside pours onto me with such force. I just have to wait in my walkabout suit for the water to fill the rest of the hallway and the pressure to even out. It's dark and I can't see if the door is open.
It's awful.
“Just breathe, Cal,” Reese says. “Your vitals are off the charts.”
No shit.
I steady my breathing.
An eternity passes, and the chamber finally fills up with water. It's so dark here, I turn on my headlamp to scan my surroundings. Thankfully, the seal to the museum gallery was closed airtight, so the paintings in there weren't ruined.
“What do you see, Cal?” Reese asks me.
I clear my throat. “From what I can see, no water leaked in.” Small miracle, but I'll take it.
She lets out an audible sigh that I can hear. “Thank goodness,” she whispers.
I proceed to plug up the hole with the piece of metal that I had knocked out to get in there. The blow torch makes quick work of the hole. Luckily, the next part is easy: flushing it out. Each chamber in the city is built with vents to release water in case something like this happens. It's easy, I just turn the nozzle and wait.
While the water is flushing out of the chamber, I check everything and run diagnostics of my own, making sure that the doors are secure and reinforce the patched up hole. Later, repairmen will make sure that it won't buckle under the pressure, but it will hold for now.
It takes an hour to clear out the water. But it does clear out.
“Mission control,” I breathe happily. “Success.”
An overjoyed whoop sounds on my headset, making me wince.
“What are you thinking about?” Reese asks me over the happy pandemonium. In contrast, her voice is soft, reverent. Her mind is on the same wavelength as me, although she doesn't want to admit it.
“I'm thinking about saying hi to Jude.”
I hear her sniffle. She's crying. To avoid further awkward conversation, I take off my helmet. I finger in the code for opening the door. It obediently irises open and I'm greeted by the fluorescent lights flickering on. I step through and make a beeline to the one piece of art that I fought so hard to protect.
It's a piece of paper with a colorful, child's watercolor on it. It shows three vaguely human bodies, one small, the other two big. Handwritten shaky, black letters say, “Momma and Daddy and Jude 4 1/2 years old”. Even though I've memorized every line of the picture, it still takes my breath away every time I see it.
“Hey son,” I whisper. I touch the glass. “Daddy fixed the problem. And Mommy says hi.”
It's bittersweet. It always was hard for Reese to see this painting. It was just enough for her to know that our son's painting is there.
Ten years ago, the Decompression Plague hit everyone in the city. It made adults infertile. Worst of all, it hit every child under the age of fourteen with a mortality rate of 100%. So not only are we unable to bear children any more, our children died along with any hope of the future.
That's why we have The Nursery. It's a memorial to all of our children. Every child has their last drawing on the wall to commemorate their passing.

While we're hurtling towards extinction, I'm the curator of our children's memory. And I'll do everything I can to keep it alive.

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