Day 87 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: A Character is Completely Alone in a Huge Place.
Erin: I’ve always had thing about crowds making me feel smothered. When I have over ten people surrounding me I just feel like the world is caving in. One of the worst places for me to go is my hometown supermarket. There is only one place to get groceries in our town, so it is the most hopping place to be after work lets out. That’s why I never go at that time I go when the store is about to close.
This method worked well for me for the longest time. That was until I stayed in the chip isle for too long one night and the only worker left didn’t realize I was there. In her defense, I did walk to the store, so an empty parking lot was probably normally a sign of quitting time.
As I traipsed up and down the aisle, realizing I had unlimited supper options, a feeling suddenly hit me: this supermarket I had come to think of as crushingly small, was actually terrifyingly big.
Shannon: The baseball stadium was my second home. My dad owned the minor league team, so I got used to hanging out here when I was little whether I wanted to or not. However, most of the time I was the one who could never get my fill of time in my favorite place in the world. I mean how many kids can say they took batting practice on a professional field? Everything was grander in the stadium. Not to mention there was a different adventure with each new activity and feature they tested out.
Now that I’m little older, my new favorite way to past time involves hanging out in the stadium on off days when all the work is done and everyone goes home. I find a new place to explore everyday. Today I went up to announcers stand, and narrated an imaginary play-by-play as I messed with the sound effects. Then I started announcing the batting order after playing each of their walk-up songs. I didn’t have the typical commanding voice, but since I was alone, it was good enough for me. “It’s a home run, the Wombats win, the Wombats win,” I jumped out of my seat to over react. I always wanted to know it felt to be in the box during an unexpected win, this was as close as I’d ever get.
How does your character react when left alone?
“Anne?” whispered a voice that came out of the murky darkness of my room. Though I could see nothing, I could feel the absence of a figure in the space before me, making the hair on the back of my neck stand of straight. Again, the voice cooed, moving away from my slightly, “Anne?” But I calmed myself easily; breathing in the crisp, exhaust-filled air and letting out a deep, hollow breath. When I was certain nothing could break my relaxed state, I let my bedside lamp burst into brilliant, blue-hued light.
Everything was just as I’d assumed it would be; an empty room full of sad memories of a life hardly worth living. Across the room, a scratched teak desk stood littered with scraps of paper, broken pencils and a myriad of random bits and pieces that reminded me of the scatter-brained life I lived. Written in indelible ink across the walls, a recent act of tentative rebellion, were lines from my favorite books and poems. But other than a dresser that was half-full the room itself was devoid of interest. A short stack of books glared at me from the top, begging to be read before they were due back to the library.
As I lay back on the lumpy mattress, I listened intently for the raucous cacophony of noises that usually arose from the city streets; but no sound reached my ears. It was as though the entire world had gone silent, save that incessant voice that continued to call my name, facelessly. Gently rising from the bed out of sheer curiosity, the bedsprings squealing like a dying animal, I peered out of the fifth-floor window at the still city. Scarlet, yellow and emerald flashed down the street at the intersection, but not a soul went by as the light turned green.
Outside my room, everything was still and silent as the grave as the voice called again, “Anne?” Sucking in another breath, I padded softly to the hook where I hung the tattered hoody I wore when it got too cold for my holey sweaters. As I shoved one shivering arm through the hole, letting the scratchy fabric cover up my t-shirt, I listened to the television shouting about a great deal. With the jacket done up to my chin, I cracked the door open and scanned the living room for signs of my mother; she wouldn’t approve of my sneaking out in the middle of the night.
When I confirmed she wasn’t around, I flicked my light off and was cast into darkness until a commercial for a blender came on the glowing television. All I could see by the light was a cabinet full of empty alcohol bottles and a half-eaten bag of chips lying beside the armchair as I tiptoed by it. Reaching the window without arousing suspicion, I swung it open and stepped out into the frosty night air. Carefully closing the panel, wedging a piece of scrap metal that had some strange crimson stains on it to keep my entrance open, I stepped back to lean against the fire escape railing.
As the icy metal bit through my jacket, I let the splinters of pain wake me up; I should be asleep, but the silence was unnerving. Instead of the irate car horns, hopeless tenants bawling and planes flying high in the night sky, I was met with deafening silence in the city that never sleeps. “Anne?” whispered the unseen voice yet again. Whatever it was, it was following me. But I continued to ignore it as I made my way noisily, there’s really no other way to go down a cranky metal staircase, to the alleyway below. When I was almost there, I hear bellowing from inside the second-floor unit on my side and peeked through their sheer window coverings. A television had been left on while the owners were presumably slumbering.
But as I hopped over a puddle of what I hoped was water, and began strolling toward the brightly-lit street, I felt the same strange tingling on the back of my neck. This dark backstreet was encased in years of graffiti, decades of nefarious rendezvous and centuries of bad luck; I wouldn’t dare to walk its rancid cement in full daylight. On this abnormal night, however, I felt perfectly safe in my ratty sneakers and sweat pants.
As I stepped into the light of the city at the end of my street, I was blinded by the brilliance when compared to the despair from whence I came. There was a short period of total sightlessness where anything could have happened; but it didn’t, and when I could see again I was standing in the middle of a normally busy street perfectly safe. I glanced up into the facades of ancient buildings that held hundreds of low-rent boarders who couldn’t afford food, but managed to survive. Admiration came over me as the voice echoed off the apartment building, “Anne?”
Though I knew something was off with the world, it being so quiet and peaceful, I could feel no urge to discover why it was like that or how to fix it. Instead, I wandered to the other side of the street and shuffled down the sidewalk at a crawl, perusing every brightly-coloured store window with innocent interest. After a few blocks, the shops ceased to hold other people’s stolen possessions, and began to show of shiny new toys and sparkling jewelry. In one store I swear there was a solid gold car that slowly revolved on a turntable.
But none of that managed to hold my interest; just wandering the bustling streets of a thriving city was enough. Travelling those same boulevards without another soul was eerie at best and horrifying at worst. I was eighteen blocks away from my own dwelling before I realized the stars, which were normally hidden by the electric daylight the city spewed, could be seen by the millions on this strange night. Excitedly, I pranced up a main street toward the park without a thought it my head, save the idea to watch the stars all night.
As I rounded the final corner, a streetlight turning red as I began to cross, I spotted a pale apparition drifting silently through the trees. “Anne?” spoke a feminine voice, urgently calling to me from all around. I continued to studiously ignore whoever it was as I began to pursue the figure I’d seen. Through the first lines of trees, I sprinted, tripping over my own untied sneakers and skinning my knees as I went. But the figure had vanished as I erupted through the last rows of trees and came upon the faux stage. An amphitheatre was set up for a play; complete with colourful stage lights, flamboyant garb and props that appeared to be real. Everything was in place for the show to start, but no one was around to perform, or attend the enactment.
I flew down the steps and landed in a heap on the stage, laughing through the pain of falling on a hard concrete slab. But, as I breathed slowly to regain my composure, the apparition I’d seen appeared again, gliding silently down the same steps I’d stumbled upon. When it was standing before me, it sighed, “Anne?” and disappeared in a small pile of ashes. Heart pounding out a concerning rhythm, I staggered away from the arena and continued on my quest toward the center of the park; I was going to watch the stars for as long as the world would allow if it killed me.
Trees flew past at top speed as I reached the expansive fields at the middle of the gardens, grinning like an idiot. Empty as I knew they’d be, the emerald sea stretched out before me, beckoning to me. When I rushed down the hill and summersaulted into the cool grassy basin, I laughed out loud as though I had not a care in the world. I glanced up at the shining stars that twinkled and winked at me from their lofty perches and sighed deeply. Oh, what a wonder to be completely alone in such a busy place.
When I finally closed my eyes, exhaustion suddenly weighing heavily on my eyelids, I was inundated with the insistent voice now shouting, “Anne!” at the top of its as-of-yet unseen lungs. Giving in, I opened my sleep-heavy eyes and was surprised to be staring at my intricately-carved four-posted bedframe. Above me was the pudgy, reddened face of my handmaid, who’d been calling for me all along. Her expression softened when she saw my wide-eyes and faltering breath. Calmly smiling up at her, I laughed at my own silliness, “Sorry Gertrude, I was just having this awful, awe-inspiring dream where the entire city was empty and I was wondering the whole place without a single soul to stop me.” I could hear the awe in my own tone as I glanced at the older woman, searching her face for a sign of intrigue.
“Sounds fascinating miss, but we really ought to get you to the ball,” she fussed, rushing off to fetch a breath-stealing number that I’d be forced into soon. She wouldn’t understand the peace I felt in being completely alone in a world; I don’t think anyone would.
Created to Write:
Heather sits in the living room, the wheelchair to her right. Out of sheer spite, she kicks it with her good leg. The action sets off pain receptors in her left leg, and she whimpers.
“Shhh… don’t cry,” a voice says behind her. Heather freezes. “It’s just me.”
Heather gulps, “G-G-Go away.” Heather turns around, but there is no one there.
“Nah, don’t feel like it.” She turns back to see a figure sitting on the couch opposite of her.
“No,” Heather whispers, “you… you died!”
“Did you see me die?” Bryce asks, smirking. Heather refuses to answer. He looks at her knee, “Still as fragile as I last saw you.”
“Leave me alone,” she commands.
“…You’re voice is shaking, Heather,” he says. Bryce stands up and walks forward slowly, “I don’t think you want me to leave.“
“I want you, to leave,” Heather says, but she’s still shaking. Bryce is right in front of her, smirking as he eyes her up and down.
“I think… you wished we weren’t interrupted.“
“Shut up!” Heather yells.
He leans in close. Heather refuses to believe he’s there, but she can feel his breath on her face, and a shadow comes over her face as he leans closer. He leans farther and she feels something wet drag down her cheek. A hand covers hers on the couch possessively.
She closes her eyes, whimpering, “Go away.”
After a moment of breathing erratically, she opens her eyes. No one is in the room with her, but she can’t control her breathing. In the distance, she hears footfalls, but she blocks them out and tries to breathe. And tries to keep thoughts of Bryce’s abuses from surfacing as a memory haze in front of her.