short stories. Last semester, my first as an English major, I took a creative writing course as a requirement for graduation. I was excited, as you can tell. You’re reading this on the website I created for sharing my writing, after all. My first assignment was a piece of flash fiction, a short story in under 500 words. The resulting piece is below.
A skyscraper rooftop, two AM, a blackout and nothing but silence. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the heavens seem infinitely closer.
She was sleeping fitfully in the cramped closet of an apartment, the summer heat stifling in her little room with no air conditioner. In the power outage, it seemed immediately hotter. The frigid air from the hallway stopped, and suddenly, even nakedness wasn’t cool enough. With a quick tug of her clothes again, she headed for the rooftop for fresh air.
He was awake in a much larger flat on the top floor, penning down ideas for some poem he could milk no further. In the fragile glow of his desk lamp, the only light in a sea of self-inflicted darkness crafted hopefully to cultivate creativity, his pencil stuttered only to be completely enveloped by extinguished electrical light. With no candles and no hope of writing and holding a flashlight aloft his leatherbound journal, he headed for the rooftop to let off some steam.
The heavens had opened.
A technicolor dream of dots of every hue of white and yellow dazzled like raindrops in the sky. Vivid hues of purple and blue shot out in the solid black as whole galaxies to be seen and viewed. In the dead silence, one could only feel consumed by the great magnitude of the light swallowing the deep.
She wondered how each star had a name, a place and time of origin, an expiration date. And seeing the man on the rooftop, the only human being within earshot, she couldn’t help but exclaim, “do you think you’d ever be able to count them? Let alone call each by its name?”
He chuckled. “Well. I’m not God, am I? I suppose He’d know their names.”
She smiled at that, walking slowly toward the edge where he stood. “So many.” She said again. “And so many born and gone in a single moment. But so much light.”
“Mm. In a sea of so much darkness.” He said softly. “Do you think they’ll get the lights back on soon?”
“Oh, too soon, I’m afraid.”
He ignored her remark and glanced at his watch for the time.
A light plummeted from the skies.
“Shooting star! Make a wish.”
“Just a piece of flaming rock. There and then gone.”
She gave him a quizzical stare. “But here for now. Here when the world stopped.” He tapped a foot impatiently.
“When the power goes out like this, do you ever wish it could stay this way? That everything could just stay- stopped?” She asked so soft he barely heard.
The huge air conditioning unit behind them gave a groan and creak before the telltale sound of whirring that it was functioning again, and across the city, lights popped back into existence like a million matches struck against a box.
He didn’t say another word before returning to his flat. She longed for something beyond the stars.
Author’s Note: Behind the Story
“Fallen Stars” was initially titled “Fragile Creatures: A Conversation Between Two Souls and the Stars.” I started writing it just before midnight on a Thursday after my small group. I didn’t have much thought as to where to take it, but I knew where it started. As a scene description in a play, a picturesque setting of a city-wide blackout, where every single star obscured from view by light pollution is now visible, and it seems like the sky is alight with the galaxies for free viewing. A forced moment to stop, the two characters -in the first draft named John and Jane in order to obscure identity for the reader to place himself or herself in either’s place- would have vignetted conversations about meaningful, deep aspects of life.
It never took off. I left it after the first two paragraphs, and any time I’d open it up, some other story would capture my attention over it. I couldn’t think of enough meaningful things to write about, but when this assignment grabbed my attention on my syllabus, I knew I wanted to try to work it out. The resulting story became somehow deeply personal, Jane and John both representing pieces of myself at different seasons in my life, at war within about pausing to consider the transcendent, to prepare room for the quiet moments in which the Spirit moves.
I submitted it after letting a coworker proof it, and I bit my nails waiting for peer edits and my prof’s opinion. For a few days, none of my peers touched it. No one wanted to edit it, and I panicked, thinking it was so bad no one wanted to tackle telling me it was garbage. Then, that Saturday, I get an email that I made a perfect score on my rough draft. My prof loved it, and he suggests I look into publishing it somewhere that takes short-shorts.
I’m currently investigating places to submit my little piece, but for now, please enjoy it for free!
You’ll have to work out for yourself what it means to you.
“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” Psalm 147:4 NKJV