This was originally published to Tumblr, before this website existed.
When I was growing up, I wrote stories constantly. I won writing contests, wrote fan fiction for my favorite books, wrote “movies” and even took a stab at comic books a few times.
I’ve missed that feeling. Writing, and writing fiction specifically, scratches a special itch that I’m not sure can be scratched any other way. I started writing again last Summer after getting a copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I even submitted a story to them for inclusion. They didn’t end up wanting it, but they read it!
Originally, I didn’t plan on sharing any of these stories online. I don’t really have a set plan or schedule beyond “write more because you used to love it” but given the state of things this week, I think this one needs shared. It feels like the world is coming apart at the seams but around every corner, most of us are still getting our Big Mac and arguing about HBO while some people are trying not to be murdered by the police.
So here is Deadline, a story I wrote one night earlier this year after spending way too much time reading the news.
With a soft sway and an angry groan, the foundation itself began to slide from beneath the house. As he ran past his living room window, scooping up books and papers, Floyd stole a glance outside just in time to see a sinkhole swallow up a car at the far end of the street.
The sky, though streaked with smoke and ash, was burning with sunset, not unlike the world below. As far as Floyd could see, it seemed as if the world itself was coming apart, as though the adhesive and screws holding the world together had simply vanished and the disparate pieces were beginning to separate.
Frantically, Floyd moved from one room to the next, tearing through folders and backpacks. As he flipped through the pages of a textbook, too quickly to actually read and more by sense of touch, Floyd heard the sound of what he knew was another or car, or even a house, as it collapsed into the ground and dissolved into a river of molten rock and metal.
On the radio, Floyd could just make out bits and pieces over the sound over the situation outside. “NPR….disaster…Eastern seaboard…evacuation…mass casualties…” - he couldn’t stop to listen.
He glanced at the clock.
There was still time.
Throwing another book aside, Floyd began rummaging through a pile of what had to be dozens or even hundreds of sheets of paper. Dates, names, notes written weeks earlier in his own illegible scrawl. These papers held more information than Floyd could ever hope to retain himself, and that was part of the problem.
Moving on from the stack of papers, Floyd moved toward his laptop. There was still time. There had to be time.
“Imagine trying to do this without power,” Floyd thought to himself. He pulled his chair up to his laptop and began digging through gigabytes of files. Photos. Videos. Documents. Archived web pages.
Stealing a glance out the window, Floyd watched as one by one the streetlights on his street began to surge and blow, as if it were simply a yawn passing between them before they fell asleep.
On cue, the yawn reached Floyd’s house.
The lights cut off, leaving the laptop screen as Floyd’s only source of light. Just before the radio cut off, Floyd was able to make out one last bit of the broadcast, something about a pleasure serving something and making peace with someone.
No time to dwell on that.
Swearing under his breath, hands shaking, Floyd fumbled for his phone. His hands were shaking so badly he could barely enter his password and unlock it but somehow managed to. Frantically typing and swiping, Floyd activated his personal cellular hotspot in the off chance that the cell towers were still online.
Somehow, the icon for his personal hotspot came on and his laptop connected.
Outside, the car in Floyd’s driveway was swallowed into the ground.
With an actual cheer and an excited look to no one in particular, Floyd found it. The file he needed. The missing piece of this inscrutable puzzle.
Floyd grabbed the notes with his cursor and pasted them into the open document he’d been working on. Fumbling on the keys, he made a quick save, naming the file “FloydGrien-Final” and saved it to his Desktop.
With a browser window open to one side, Floyd dragged the document over and pressed submit. He watched as the progress bar slowly, so slowly, crept from left to right.
Around him, the angles and lines of the interior walls began to take on a sickly surreal aesthetic, as if they were from a painting meant to convey the idea of a house rather than an actual house.
Holding his phone high above his head, praying that it stayed connected just a few more seconds, Floyd dared not take his eyes off the laptop screen. As the progress bar got closer and closer to the end of its journey, Floyd felt the ground beneath his house start to shift. Quickly glancing out the window, he saw the skyline start to rise, eventually eclipsing the frame of his window until all visible signs of the outside world were gone.
As the floor beneath Floyd began to smolder and crack, he took one last look at the laptop screen. In the dark, surrounded by smoke he could taste more than see, Floyd saw it. There in bright green letters, Floyd saw one last message before there was only black.
FINAL ASSIGNMENT SUBMITTED.
DEADLINE CUTOFF - 00:00:01