Flash Fiction Friday 064: Between Floors by Rowena Simpkiss

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the sixty-fourth piece in this series. This week’s is an 803-worder by Rowena Simpkiss. This story will be podcasted in episode 22 (Sunday 24th March).

Between Floors

Between 1

“Damn it!” yelled Brian as he kicked the door of the lift.

He looked up at the floor indicator and realised he was trapped between the fifth and sixth floors.  Another minute the other way and he may not be here.  He now cursed himself for stopping to watch a sexy young girl saunter down the street in a tight-fitting mini skirt.  She really turned him on and he had not felt that way for a while.

He wrenched open the cabinet that housed the emergency telephone.

“Name’s Brian Parker.  I’m trapped in a lift in the Huddard Building.”

The voice at the other end sounded unfazed by his plight.

“Someone will be there as soon as possible.”

“What do you mean as soon as possible? The air’s running out in here.  Get me out now!”

“Calm down! We’ll have you out before you know it.”

Brian slammed down the phone. How could they keep him waiting? It was urgent. They did not know what it was like to be trapped and facing a fear that threatened to take him over.

Between 2

It was getting increasingly hot in there and he could feel the sweat running down his brow. He wiped the back of his hand across it and with a sharp tug, loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top of his blue shirt. He thought of Lucy. If only she could see him now. He almost heard her bickering at him to tidy himself up. She always ironed his shirts to perfection and made him keep his dark hair in a sleek, crew-cut. Now his shiny black shoes were scuffed at the toes from kicking the lift door, and his shirt was crumpled like paper and hung out from the back of his grey trousers.  His face felt flushed and he could only imagine what his clean-shaven face looked like now.  He was glad he couldn’t see his brown eyes as he was sure they would reflect the fear he felt.

He could hear Lucy now saying: “a person in her position should be well groomed.”

He often thought: What’s the point? He was only a telephone customer service representative for a communications company. The customers could not see him. He thought of his co-workers who often complimented him on the calm way he handled irate customers.  If only he could display that calm now, but the confined space was driving him mad.

At the moment Lucy was the least of his worries. For now feelings of panic threatened to overwhelm him. As he struggled to control them, another fear entered his mind. There had been so many earthquakes lately that if one struck now there was no way out.  He wanted to yell out and bang his fists against the wall of the lift.  Why couldn’t they hurry up and get him out of this damned place? he thought.  What was taking them so long?  He could be dead before they got him out.

Between 3

He longed to stretch out his tall legs and get some fresh air. For a moment he closed his eyes and imagined himself in a wide-open space with fresh air and a trickling stream. He could hear the tranquillity of bird song and for an instant he was out of the lift. Then reality returned as the smell of his sweat hit his nostrils.  His hands were clammy and his mouth was dry and craving for water. The thought of dying in there took over his mind and he wanted to get up and pound on the door. Telling himself to calm down was lost in the turmoil of his mind.

Brian began to wonder whether anyone would care if he did die in the lift. Perhaps his employer had not noticed him missing after lunch. Maybe he did not care himself anymore, his life was flashing before him adding credibility to the fear he was about to die.

It was a sharp jolt at first and then Brian felt movement. He looked up to see the floor indicator was working again.

“Oh, my God!” he yelled. “I’m getting out!”

The doors opened to an unfamiliar floor. He blinked his eyes and saw a petite young blonde woman in a red mini-skirt.  At first he didn’t believe his eyes and wondered if he was hallucinating.  Then she smiled at him and he heard the sweetest voice.

“He’ll do!” she said excitedly to someone beside her. “He’s what we want.”

She looked at Brian with a smile that melted him away.

“Will you star in our advertisements?”

“Of course!” he replied. “I’ll do it for you.”

A wry smile formed on his dry lips.

He had found heaven between floors and he no longer cared about anything. Not even what Lucy would say.

I asked Rowena what prompted this piece and she said…

Rowena

Between Floors is inspired by a newspaper item about office workers who were trapped in a lift during a power cut. I imagined what it would be like to be trapped in a lift and I used my own fear of being trapped in a lift to get inside the thoughts and feelings of my character, Brian.

I loved it. Thank you, Rowena.

Rowena Simpkiss enjoys writing short stories and during her teenage years wrote stories for the children’s sections of a New Zealand newspaper and magazine.

She is also a regular contributor to letters to the editor in her local community newspaper The Leader, and currently works for The Inland Revenue Department in New Zealand.

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If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here, or a longer piece (1001 – 3,000 words) for Short Story Saturdays click here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime thriller author Rick Reed – the five hundred and seventy-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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Author Spotlight no.81 – Trish Nicholson

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the eighty-first, is of non-fiction and short story writer Trish Nicholson.

A writer and photographer as well as an anthropologist, Trish had careers in regional government, management training, university tutoring, research, and finally, travelling the world to work on aid and development projects. A compulsive scribbler, during those years her writings included a monthly column, and feature articles for national newspapers in UK and Australia, as well as books on anthropology, management and tourism. Trish enjoyed writing non-fiction, but she feared that the storytelling of her childhood was lost forever until she settled on a hillside in New Zealand twelve years ago, where she now writes full time and is a member of the New Zealand Society of authors.

Encouraged by a few wins and anthology publications, she is working on her storytelling skills which she believes are equally important for writing non-fiction. She applies this creed to her weekly blog posts which include stories, reviews, travel tales and photo-essays as well as posts on writing.

Last year, Trish signed up with Collca to write for their new ebook series, illustrated BiteSize Travel, which allows her to indulge her passion for photography. Masks of the Moryons: Easter Week in Mogpog, was released in December 2011; Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, was released on 20 April 2012.

And now from the author herself:

Aspiring writers are told, ‘write about what you know’, so I suppose I should be grateful for having had a varied life, but it wasn’t only travelling as an adult that broadened my experience, my childhood was survived against a background of constant change. By my teens, we’d lived in as many homes as I’d had birthdays. The downside, apart from favourite books being ‘lost in the move’ ­– a family catch-phrase and favourite explanation of all things disappeared – was being always the new girl at school and a perpetual ‘outsider’.  Much later in life I discovered this could be a distinct advantage to a writer.

With friends ‘lost in the move’ so often, I invented my own companions, having long conversations with them under the stairs, in the bathroom, behind the chicken shed, anywhere I could get away from adults’ flapping ears. Our squabbles and adventures were my first stories, told to my dog Sebastian who sat on the floor beside me, enthralled by every word.

But stories were soon knocked out of me at school: I learnt the hard way about genre and knuckled down to write essays on the industrial revolution, and the mating habits of dogfish. My choices at university ­– anthropology and geography with a side serving of psychology – brought further discipline with the need to check and cite authorities as well as generate original material, but I loved every minute of it; the pattern for my future was firmly laid.

While still at school I had sent a letter to New York: ‘Dear United Nations, I really want to work with people in foreign countries when I grow up. Please tell me how I can do this.’ Some kind soul on a long tea break replied to me, saying I should gain qualifications in almost any subject that I enjoyed, spend about 20 years gaining experience in that field, and then apply for overseas positions. And that is more or less what happened.

The ‘moving’ became a permanent feature of my life, going from university to various jobs in the UK, in Europe, and finally to the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, to a score of countries. I paused for a few extra years in the Philippines to complete a PhD in applied anthropology, but travelling and trekking anywhere I hadn’t been before became my practice when not actually working. Inevitably, ‘outsider’ status became permanent as well.

It sounds like a Zen mantra, but distance brings you closer. Detachment is essential for research, journalism, travel and other non-fiction writing; not that any writer can entirely avoid subjectivity, but being aware of it leads to better balance. In seeking ideas for fiction, too, detachment can enliven all your senses: outsiders notice more. People also talk to lone travellers more readily. Whenever anyone sits next to me on a bus or plane they inevitably tell me their life story – a writer needs to be such a fly paper; it makes for stickier stories.

I loved that, thank you, Trish. You can find more about Trish and her writing via…her website http://www.trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com (and she really does have a tree house). She is also on Twitter @TrishaNicholson.

InsideStoriesPbookCover-webHer latest travel book, Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, pictured above, is available on Amazon US, UK, and other e-retailers, for further information and to read the Preface to the ebook go to http://collca.com/jib. Masks of the Moryons: Easter Week in Mogpog is available from http://collca.com/motm.

Update July 2013: “Now, fortunately for us, Trish has returned to her stories, including 15 of them analysed and critiqued in her latest book Inside Stories for Writers and Readers, a companion to inspire and entertain, in which she explores the relationship between a writer’s voice and a reader’s voice when they meet in a story.“

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