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Storm of the day
By Mark Edwards

My story, like any story in the history of fiction, starts with a spot of weird weather. Okay, so perhaps The Hobbit didn't explicitly start with "a spot of weird weather", but I'm sure that if you go far enough into the antecedent there must be at least one unseasonable squall of note. All that, of course, is beside the point.

The odd meteorological phenomenon pertaining to this story is, in fact, sub-zero temperatures in the very heart and spleen of July. July had been a hot month, so far, after the unseasonable may snowfalls, which had become almost commonplace. Such is the risk one takes when one lives in the foothills, I suppose. At any rate, after winter had left like a reluctant relative, bent on poking his or her head back in the door at least a few times more in order to make sure that they were not forgotten, everyone was just about ready to enjoy the thirty degree (centigrade) weather and get down to some serious summer loving.

For my uncle Ira, "gaw diggin' minus two", even in the early morning, was entirely too much. I, then a very precocious ten, was roused from my bed by a grizzled paw, hauled, still in my jammies, into a rusty pickup truck, and was unceremoniously dumped, two hours later, into my first airplane ride. At first I was in awe of the massive metal birds, the orderly rows of cushy, spacious seats and funny-smelling air. My awe soon changed to fear as I was strapped to the chair which wasn't so cushy anymore, which then metamorphosed into urine-soaked dread as my world degenerated into a roaring, dry maelstrom of free juice and endless sitting.

Needless to say, I've hated travel ever since.

My rather woefully traumatic past taken into consideration, it was with the utmost trepidation that I found myself sitting on an airplane, on my way to a job interview in Seattle. With college not even finished, (I had yet to write my second-year final exam), I had already been snapped up by a small electronic entertainment magazine based in the city. I had faced the prospect of a BA in English with much the same attitude I had towards travel of any kind, let alone airborne - nobody needed writers then. During the internet's fall from grace, the e-zine, videogame journalism website and author's webring had followed the natural progression - from free forum for free intellectual partage to pay site to nonexistence, leaving the internet a wasteland of porn, online shops and millions upon millions of webcomics.

With public view fading fast from the Internet, people were just about ready to pick up books and magazines again, and thus demand for writers grew. Little did I know that I would soon become as hot a commodity as my graphic-designer friends. Thus I, a mediocre writer at best, found myself flown for free the three hours to Seattle, Washington, where the editor-in-chief had an office waiting for the next hip, young writer to pop in the door. As I mulled over the prospects, I began to grow more and more optimistic about my future, and, aided by my fifth free shot of rye whiskey, to forget about the fact that I was fifteen thousand feet above southern Alberta.

Despite the short trip, I soon fell asleep, tumbling in a chaotic haze of travel mishaps and alarmist tales of plane crashes. I was awakened by a sharp jolt in the cabin, and further brought to consciousness by the shocked gasps of my fellow travelers. That jolt was followed by two more in quick succession, and then by many more, until the entire plane was literally being shaken. Without time to register what was happening, I hit my head on the door of an overhead storage compartment, carelessly left open, and fell unconscious.

When I awoke, I was on what had to be the last uncharted desert island in the mid-northern Pacific. More accurately, I awoke with a mouthful of sand and a pair of broken glasses.

To my surprise, my shirt and pants were ripped in the classic "castaway" style - raggedly torn at the elbows and knees - something so cliché just had to be a dream. Unfortunately, the crab frantically taking panicked swipes from beneath my foot cured me of that delusion. Swearing and screaming and cursing my bad fate and just KNOWING that this must be a sand trap at some upscale golf course or something, I sat on a nearby drift log, ripped a strip from my shirt - apparently why so many castaways end up naked, I thought - and bandaged my foot.

After dejectedly wandering the beach, which I had ironically started thinking of as home, I sat morosely on the drift log and tried to think rationally. Okay, there are trees and grasses on the island, denoting potable water. There's driftwood for fire. Good. There's at least one crab. Good, that'll fill my belly for a little while. Okay.

My plan of action decided, my rational-thinking mode set in, and my foot not really feeling so bad after all, I set out into the tall grass, looking for a spring or, failing that, a Taco Bell.

. . .

Really black in here... what happened? Maybe I should get up. Pain.

Ow... shit... okay, bad idea. Maybe open my eyes? After the initial blurriness subsided, I saw that I was sprawled, Mr. Bean-style, in a spot of light, having apparently landed on a soft bed of plant matter and sand.

Man, this day sucks... hell, this whole week sucks. I wonder why I even agreed to get on that blasted plane. What happened to the others, I wonder. I wonder how I survived and why there's no plane wreckage anywhere. I wonder how this hole got here. Wait, something's moving over there... It's coming this way. It's...

"Sha-Shakira? What the?" I had apparently blacked out again and was hallucinating. When I came back to consciousness, the earlier pain had dulled and I was able to get up. The hole in which I'd landed wasn't really that deep, and wasn't as dark as I'd expected, so I was able to explore a little bit before having to find a way out.

The way out was nothing so dramatic as a crumbly wall leading to a city of gold, or to an ironic reunion with my sixth-grade teacher visiting a zoo or anything. Basically, I just gave a heroic leap and scrabbled, hamster-style, out of the hole. Once out, I marked the hole (to avoid yet another misstep), and inadvertently found a small, clean spring. I drank my fill and headed back to the beach, where I managed to make a fire (Survivor made it look a lot tougher than it really is), catch and kill a crab, and roast some meat. After my deliciously awful meal, I curled up in the sand, huddled against the surprising chill, and tried to get to sleep.

Sleep didn't come easily, however, and I found myself drifting ever deeper into quiet introspection. Why WAS I so terrified of travel? Could that whole uncle Ira debacle be nothing more than a crutch? A convenient excuse? Perhaps

I, a real homebody, living with my parents through university because moving into another house in city "just didn't make sense", couldn't function outside my zone of comfort. That was a sad thought. I always thought of myself as rather an adventurer... an adventurer who just didn't like planes very much. I was far sadder by the time sleep finally claimed me.

I awoke to find myself staring at a pair of booted feet. For a brief, irrational second I found myself wondering if it was a pirate, but reason soon took hold. Apparently it was someone from the Coast Guard, who, having seen the smoke from my dying signal fire (which I'd rather smartly covered with green leaves so that I didn't burn myself), came down to investigate.

To make a long story short, I was flown to a Seattle hospital where I was kept overnight and released just in time to race to a nearby Mall, beg for a suit (promising to pay later and return it in immaculate condition, of course), and race to the office for my interview. For all my effort (which was, I thought, fairly Herculean, given the circumstances), I banged through the Editor-In-Chief's door twenty minutes late.

"You're late," the boss said, his face rather good-humouredly stern, as if he took the role of leader as a joke, rather than as a responsibility. If it weren't for the damned plane crash, I wouldn't have minded working for him. Already I had morosely given up on the job. Oddly, I continued what I felt to be a sad charade.

"Sorry, sir. Traffic was murder." If I hadn't been so depressed about the interview, I would have collapsed in laughter.

"Ahh, no problem," Tim, the boss, said with a shrug. "Let's see your portfolio." Portfolio! Oh no! It was lost on the plane! What had happened to the plane anyway? Agh! No time for stupid questions, think of something! Helpless and flailing, I did the only thing I could think of at the time.

I told the truth.

Tim just stared at me for a good five minutes after I'd stopped talking. I stood there in my borrowed and ill-fitting suit, sweating nervously and wishing I had a drink - even a drink of fetid, urine-smelling spring water would have done. Finally, my prospective employer leaned back in his chair and laughed, having decided that he'd had enough of making me sweat.

"That was awesome!" he roared, "You've got the job!"

So I started work the next day. All my stuff was shipped down courtesy of Ziff-Davis media and I settled into what would be a very lucrative and rewarding career as a traveling videogame journalist. To add insult to irony, it turns out that the cold snap, which had terrified my uncle Ira, so was the meteorological precursor to the weather condition that had crashed my plane. Go figure.


------
Grizzled veteran of the Console Wars


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