So, with one thing and another, finding myself without a project (between projects?), rather than trying to start up a new one, with all the quasi-planning (and sometimes (quasi-)research) that involves, I decided to just do writing prompts for the rest of the month. Or at least until I figure out something better today.
And I thought I’d share today’s with you. In the past, I’ve put the prompt first (I’m using Pitchstorm again), but this time I thought I’d put it after the story.
And now, on with the show…
Jess slowly made her way up the stairs to her miserable little loft. She’d only gotten one tip all day. Unless you counted the “tips” her customers insisted on imparting to her on how to be a better barista. As if she’d be working behind the counter at an impoverished Starbucks-wannabe if there was any other job open to her?
Worse still, when she had checked her mail, she had found two more rejection notices, one from that art show in the Village that everyone had sworn she would get into, and the other from a gallery that routinely displayed utter garbage on its walls, to the extent that Jess was pretty sure some of it had literally been fished out of the dumpster in the alley behind the gallery.
Was that it, then? Was her art really worse than week-old Chinese leftovers smeared across a piece of old newsprint?
The notion of throwing her greasy slice of pizza at the wall and framing it briefly crossed her mind, but she dismissed it for two reasons. One, it would be very hard to sell, and two, she was too hungry to waste her dinner.
Half her loft had been converted into her studio, with canvases drying in corners and propped up aganst the walls, and paint cans and palettes everywhere. Actually, maybe it was more like two-thirds than half. She only had a little bit of room to live in, just a sofa, a television, a hammock above the sofa, and a wardrobe for her clothes. It would be a fine arrangement, if only she was actually able to pay for it. And maybe if the apartment was above the barn attached to a quaint bed and breakfast in some lovely, sleepy little New England town.
Why in the world had she ever come to the big city in the first place?
She went to bed pondering that question, dreamt about it all night, and woke up no wiser for all the thought she had put into it. Maybe there just wasn’t any answer.
Trying not to think about it, Jess got dressed again, and tried to leave her apartment to go get breakfast at the bagel shop down on the corner. But her door wouldn’t open.
It was unlocked, the chain wasn’t on, but she couldn’t get it to open.
Some investigation eventually revealed that a massive deadbolt was passing through the door, starting in the ceiling and going all the down into the floor. Or perhaps vice-versa. (Was there a way to tell the difference?)
Tapping on the door and the floor didn’t reveal anything, so Jess brought her ladder over and tapped on the ceiling, too, but she didn’t hear anything to tell her anything there, either.
By now she was getting quite hungry, so she decided not to care, and went back to her workshop for one of the small hacksaws she used to cut two-by-fours to make custom canvas frames. Surely with that she could cut the deadbolt and get out!
It wouldn’t pass between the doorframe and the door. Well, of course it wouldn’t!
That would be too easy!
Jess decided that she didn’t care anymore, and tried to cut through the door itself. If the landlord didn’t like replacing it, he could just deal with it. It’s not like she did anything to make that deadbolt appear! And if he evicted her, well…then she could go find that quaint B&B in New England and get on with having a decent life again.
She tried cutting the door from every angle she could think of. All she accomplished was to blunt her saw.
Was the door made of steel? Why?
Maybe she could open a window and go out the fire escape.
She really should have thought of that sooner, Jess realized as she headed for the window. Wasn’t that the point of a fire escape in the first place, to let you get out when the door was impassable? Okay, sure, technically it was there in case you couldn’t get out because of a fire, but…impassable is impassable, surely.
Unfortunately, the window wouldn’t open, no matter how hard Jess tugged on it. Well, of course it wouldn’t!
Jess went back to her wardrobe and got out a heavy sweater, planning to wrap her her arm in it and smash the glass to get out the window. Only as she was pulling it out, she noticed something glinting green in the base of the wardrobe. Moving aside her clothes, Jess found a small control panel with a single button, and a light blinking green beside it.
What the…why was there a control panel in her wardrobe?!
Figuring there was nothing to lose, Jess pressed the button, and a panel opened in the wall next to the door, revealing a Sudoku-like puzzle.
After fussing with the puzzle for what felt like several hours, Jess gave up, and picked up the sledgehammer she used to smash old tiles for use in mosaics. Hefting the sledgehammer over her head, Jess brought it down with all her might on the puzzle.
Something sparked and fizzed and released a thick burst of smoke that quickly obscured Jess’s sight.
The next thing she was aware of was something being waved in front of her face. “Can you hear me?”
“Huh…? Who…who are you?”
“Oh, good, you’re awake!” Jess’s eyesight began to come into focus, and she saw that the thing being waved in her face was a hand, belonging to an EMT. “Can you tell me your name?”
“And where are you, Jess?”
“In my apartment.”
For some reason, that answer made him frown. “And what happened here?”
Jess whimpered. “I don’t know,” she wailed, before explaining the whole story.
The EMT listened thoughtfully, nodding. “We’ll take you to the hospital for some tests,” he announced, gesturing to two other EMTs who brought over a stretcher. “Hopefully your memory will come back soon.”
Jess tried to ask questions, but no one was listening. She watched in confusion as the two men carried her on the stretcher out of a first floor room onto the street, past a man who was screaming “Vandal!” in her direction. Where had her apartment building gone? Where was she? What was with that sign above the door that said “Can YOU Escape?”
And the prompt was…
Character: A young artist struggling to pay rent
Plot: struggles with the bleak reality of life in the big city.
Notes: What if this whole story was set in an escape room?
The “Notes” would have been easier to implement if I had any idea what an escape room is actually like. I’ve played a couple of escape-the-room games on my phone, but I have no idea of the physical, in-person escape room experience is even remotely like that.
Anyway, this was a fun little diversion. It’s nice to be able to write a whole story in a single sitting like this. The wordcount for it was 1,063, which puts my November total up to 48,472.