Day 12 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write a story with a heavy focus on numbers.
Erin: At 4:02am I woke up. I ate 20 cheesy chips. After 42 minutes of flipping between 7 channels, I turned off the television. I climbed the 14 steps back to my room. I burrow under the 5 blankets I had piled on my bed.
I slept for exactly 7 minutes. The other 6 hours and 31 minutes were spent pinching my eyes shut and trying to pretend I could control the thrashing of my heart enough to lull into a sleep. My mother checked on me 4 times within the span. She had undoubtedly been up even longer than me. I imagined that pretending to sleep would make her more secure, but my actions may have had the opposite effect.
1/4 of a phone ring sounded. In a millisecond of the ring being cut short my mother’s voice said, “Hello.” My fingers sent out signals to my body telling me it was not the call. There were three more of those while my mother and I complete 5/16 of a puzzle. When the real call came, mom let it ring 4 times. We wanted to know, but then again, we might not have wanted to know. As the fifth ring started she picked up.
She took 20 breaths throughout the call. 2 of them were used on, “Just let me know if my baby girl is okay.” 1 smile spread across her face as she dropped the phone. I was in her arms in an instant and I was no longer concerned with how many happy tears were rolling down my back, just that there were a lot of them.
Shannon: “Number 765 you are in violation of Code 49, what do you think you’re doing in Area 100 at night,” the guard shouted from behind the fence as he pushed the button to light up the number label on my shirt. The new uniform was a permanent nametag to keep us unified and accountable. However, I thought the dress code was more than obnoxious.
“Do you really want an answer or do you just want me to get down,” I yelled back from the tree branch I was sitting on, and then took a deep breath of the fresh air.
He was unlocking the gate door that I had climbed earlier to gain access to my favorite secret spot. “No, I actually would like to know,” he explained once he was standing below me. He was young, somewhere around my age.
“Oh, so you’re not a stiff,” I teased. His number was 601. Not much older at all. “If you must know,” I leaded back into the bark, feeling more at ease. “I like to look at the stars from up here.”
“What is so special about stars that you feel the need to break the law to see them?”
The extra year he had over me hadn’t made him any wiser. “There are so many stars that no one ever takes the time to keep track of them.” I looked up to soak in their power. “They are never labeled with a number, or their place in the sky. They are free to be exactly as they are. I wish I was a star,” I looked down at him with a sigh, depressed at what he might soon take away for good.
His brow furrowed at my desire. “Numbers keep us visible. No one gets left behind anymore. How would you like to be forgotten?” He pointed up at me aggressively, because I was questioning something so engrained in his beliefs.
“I would love to be forgotten,” I hugged the tree in appreciation.
He released a growl. “Get down now 765.”
Numbers, numbers numbers… Most writers hate them. Learn to love them.
The room, empty but for an antique metal chair and a solid steel door, was deathly silent. Every other surface was stark white, sterile to the extreme. Standing in the corner defensively I glanced down at myself; blue bare feet, a heavy knit dress in plain slate and soft hands. Timidly I took a step forward on ice-cold stone, sending shocks up my leg. When nothing devastating happened I shuffled forward to the chair, touching the frigid metal when a loud buzz sounded that shook me to my very soul. It was followed by an oddly feminine mechanical voice, “Ten!” Peering around the room carefully I regarded every inch of cold white stone with interest.
Questions gathered in my mind, fighting for supremacy. Despite myself I spoke out loud, “What does ten mean?” I asked whoever was listening, because someone had to be out there. After a few seconds without an answer I continued, just wanting to clear my head. Powerfully I called, “Is anyone out there? What is this place?” Still no answer.
Finally I decided to inspect the chair; maybe it held a secret to where I was. As I lay on the cold stone under the chair, “Nine!” decried the mechanical voice. I almost hit my head on the seat as I bolted upright. Staggering to the door I clawed at the bolts. It was a countdown.
Uselessly I pounded on the steel with trembling fists until bruises began to blossom on my hands. When I sunk, too terrified to cry, before the door I could faintly hear something on the other side. Cupping my shaking hands around my ear I struggled to hear. I jumped to my feet, backing away from the door as the steel shook with the force of someone attempting to get in. “Eight!” screamed the analog woman.
The terrifying sounds coming from the door had ceased; perhaps they realized nothing could get through the door. Really, there was no reason to not live your entire life in an empty little box or in any capacity. Glancing down at my bloody palms made me think of how useless life was; like pounding on a locked door. I dropped where I stood, painfully hitting my elbows on the floor, and lay there staring up at the blank ceiling. Not a line was visible in the perfect nothingness of this room; it was desolate.
“Seven!” chimed the woman again, sounding more human this time. Laying on my back in this amazing little space with the cold chilling my skin through the fabric of my dress I felt so happy. When I jumped up, fast enough to get a head rush, I laughed out loud. Who would want to leave this place? I sat comfortably in the solid metal chair given to me by the lovely people at this facility. But I couldn’t stay seated; I had too much energy and joy flowing through me. I ran around the room, skipping and twirling gleefully until, “Six!” As soon as the word faded from my ears the joy drained out of me.
It was replaced with a white hot fury that spread through my body like a virus, causing my heart to pound rapidly in my chest. Angrily I swore at the ceiling as I blustered around the room fuming. Lifting the chair above my head I hurled the metal object at the door with all my might. Crumpling the cheap material twisted against the unyielding steel. I was furious at the chair for not holding up to my abuse and my heart kept its pace.
“Five!” sounded and I felt a sudden rush of guilt about breaking the chair. Running up to it I almost broke down as I held the mangled corpse in my bloody hands. I could see it melting before my very eyes; disappearing because I’d hurt it. When I stumbled back against the silky smooth wall I thought about how sad someone would have to be to build a room like this. They must’ve wanted someone who’d be entertaining and kind to the items they gave their subject; all I’d been was scared, angry and depressed. I was saved by the, “Four!”
Suddenly I felt very high; perhaps it was just the lack of air but I was so happy and in love. I loved this pale room. I wanted to kiss every single inch of this alien, shiny white substance than made up the walls and floor and ceiling of this cute little room. Whoever did this, that put me in here, was such a wonderful person. This tiny room was so amazing and lovable. I bounced up to touch the mangled, not melted, chair by the door. It was a masterpiece; an extraordinary piece of artwork worthy of praise.
“Three!” The voice was sounding tired. But at least she got to be somewhere other than here. This little room was horrible; far too bright and with nothing to do. I envied people who were asleep. Regarding the disfigured chair I thought about how at least it was in pieces; if I was in that shape I’d be dead. At least then I’d be out of this stupid room. Walking, around the room I considered all the spectacular things outside that I’d always taken for granted. I imagined walking in a park in the bright, warm sunshine beating down pleasantly.
“Two!” came deafeningly, reverberating around the room. I stopped walking and glanced around the desolate and silent room. Too quiet. Too empty. Shrieking bloody murder I darted into a corner opposite the door and huddled, arms tightly wrapped around my legs in the nook. Weakly noises began to echo in the room; screaming and shuffling of feet. Closing my eyes tightly I struggled to ignore the terrifying sounds. When they began to vibrate the floor beneath my feet I peered around the room to see faint figures sauntering and lurching around the miniscule white room. I squealed in horror before, “One!”
Taking in deep breaths at long last I glanced around the empty room with the broken metal chair and steel door. My heart had slowed to normal and the room was still and silent. Slowly I got to my feet, wiping the blood from my wounded hands, self-consciously. As my mind slowly crawled back to me the voice came on the PA again, this time with an explanation, “Prisoner 823741-3, you are now fully aware of what modes of persuasion we have at our disposal. You will tell us what we want to know or this mental torture will continue.”
The click/taping of a type writer echoed through the empty office building as I melted into my zen like state. The company manifesto needed to be booked and accounted for. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year. I glanced at the 3363-paged page open spine book beside me as my logical compositor pulsed at exactly 65 micro seconds every 1-minute interval. I mentally picture the inverted number 76 to activate my audio recorder installed at the base of my throat. I felt my neck spasm as the electricity crawled down my spine. “August 10th of outer rotation date 7077 old earth time, Rayauldus astrotransportation had lost 12 vessels as of this year so far. Current economical damages vary from 15 million in water to construction material ratios which also vary by,” I stole deep breath before continuing. “which also vary by 20 liters for 1 kilograms of composite hybrid metals.”
My fingers tapped away without my input at the rate of 400 actions per minute as the microchips plugged deep into my meaty brain sack pulsed again at 70 micro seconds. I stopped as my body contorted before rearranging it self without my permission back to it’s purpose. “When am I allowed to go back to sleep?” I stupidly asked. I almost stopped to consider how stupid that was when a second at 100 micro pulses pulse suddenly shocked me and my body moved without my compulsion. “Please-” I couldn’t finish before my voice continued its own. “Company losses, while apparent, are not necessary. As reported profits, so far from our returning fleet of 345 converted Neck Breaker class frigates, 112 Long nose whales and 56 Sorrows-ways returned with the equivalent amount of 5000 liter to $10,000,456 worth of Confederate standard credits ratio worth of supplies.” I screamed internally as my voice was stolen from me, the rubbery cords of my throat sore and dry from continuous speaking.
I rubbed my drooping eyes as I looked at the clock on the wall of my office. 11:20. I pulled myself up when a pulse of 100 micro seconds rocked through me. Instantly I found myself forced back into my chair as I began to mindlessly work. “Can I sleep?” I finally asked fruitlessly. A pulse at 34 micro seconds sent me tumbling to the hard wood floor. “Finally.” I breathed as my electric dreams began.
Created to Write: August and Josh walk into the dojo, listening to a familiar voice chant to herself.
“235… 236… 237… 238… 239… 240… 241…”
“Still at it?” August asks.
Heather looks up at him, then goes back to her push ups, “242… 243… 244… 245…”
“August, you should know better than to challenge Heather, especially in this way,” Josh says.
“248… 249… 250…”
“She can’t do more than 1,000,” August states.
“I can definitely do more than you,” Heather adds during a pause. “252… 253… 254… 255…”
“Heather, you don’t have to finish.”
“I want to. 256… 257…”
“It won’t prove anything.”
“I want to see August’s… 258… face when I reach 1,250.”
August looks at her, shocked, “We agreed on 1,000.”
“260… Isn’t 1,250 more than 1,000.”
“Then why are you so sour? 262… 263… 264…”
August crosses his arms, “…How much can you lift?”
“August, you can at least let her concentrate,” Josh suggests.
“2,000. …278… 279… 280,” Heather continues.
“You skipped a little,” August says smugly.
“No- 282… I can lift 2,000 pounds,” Heather says, then goes right back to counting.
August nods, hiding his surprise. After she reaches 300, he asks, “Think you can do it double time?”
“August!” Josh yells.
Heather pauses for a second, smirking. Then she starts again, faster, “301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 206, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313-”
“You call that double time?” August asks, testing fate.
“Dude, you’ll be whipped tomorrow after sparring if you do this,” Josh warns, “she will cream you.”
“No she won’t, I have more experience,” August counters, watching Heather reach 350 in no time.
“362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370,” Heather counts, still going fast. August sits down, watching.
At 500, Heather has sweat coating her arms. Josh then leaves the two be, finding something else to do. Heather slows down at 859, back to her original pace. August teases her, but she keeps going.
At 938, August starts to worry that she’ll actually do it.
He groans when she hits 1,001. She starts to slow at 1,062, sweat dripping onto the mat below her.
She starts to struggle at 1,145. August starts cheering her on at 1,150, counting for her so she can use her breath. At 1,215 she starts taking small, 3 second breaks before going through the next push up. At 1,237, she’s taking longer breaks. Her hands are slippery, but she only has 14 left.
When she hits 1,251, she collapses to the floor. Her throat is sandpaper, her body has produced a small puddle below her, and her arms feel like jello.
August leaves a moment, then comes back with a couple water bottles. Heather pulls herself to sit up, then drinks the first one slowly.
When she starts to get her voice back, she says, “Now… there’s only one… thing left to do…”
August looks at her, curious.
Heather takes a drink, then explains, “…Deciding what color you have to dye your hair… I’m thinking green… You like that color, right?”
August sighs, ‘I should have seen that coming. She won the bet, after all.’
Heather sees his reaction, then smiles amidst the pain and drinks more water.