Updates sporadically.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge: Helical Earth

First things first -- go check out this blog. I've been enjoying it.

Second things second -- this is not a regularly scheduled update. You may be saying, "Duh, it's Friday. I can tell time, you know." Well, Friday is a day, not a time, smartass.

This post exists as part of the Flash Fiction Challenge happening over at the TerribleMinds blog. It seemed apropos given yesterday's post. Therefore, I wanted to participate and encourage all of you to participate, as well!

For those of you to lazy to click any of the links (seriously, just click) here's the rundown: Write a short piece of fiction, 1,000 words or fewer, based on a title/prompt created by a random generator and two lists of words. If you want the prompt, you're going to have to click. I'm not going to copy and paste from someone's blog. What am I, Shia Labeouf? Just click here. Or here. Or here.

Or here.

You see those underlined bits that make the arrow turn into a hand? Click one.

Finally, my prompt and attempt:

Helical Earth

The corridor went straight down, a hollow pillar driven into the crust of the earth as though somebody had tried to core it like an apple. The mouth was wide, perhaps 20 feet across, agape at the cloudless sky overhead. The sunlight didn’t reach the bottom – it was swallowed up some hundreds of feet down. Was there even a bottom? She looked at the staircases that wound around the column, crossing paths at intervals. “A double helix,” she thought, “just like DNA. Maybe that’s what it is.” The thought passed errantly through her mind.

She looked around her, searching for something on the ground. There was a rock a few feet away the size of her fist. She bent down and picked it up, brushing the mud from it, walking as close to the mouth of the hole as she dared. Pulling her arm back, she flung the heavy missile forward, aiming for the center of the mouth, just missing. Close enough.

She listened.

Her heartbeat. Her breathing. The susurrus of wind in the grass and whistling over the corridor. And nothing.

If only she had a flash light, she thought. The sunlight didn’t reach very far; she’d be in the dark for most of the journey. There was nothing for it, though – there was no one around for miles, nowhere to get supplies. And once she left, she doubted that she would be able to find her way back. She could feel it. There would be no returning to this place. The only question that remained was, which staircase should she choose?

They were identical, each a mirror image of the other, the one to the left winding clockwise around the corridor and the right, counterclockwise. Since they intersected she would be able to change her mind if she wanted. She knew nothing about what lay before her except that there were two staircases, but the decision felt important.

She looked back and forth between them, trying to discern any differences. The more she looked, the more indistinguishable they became. There was no unevenness in the steps, no divots or dents, no overturned pebble or miscolored streak of mud.

It was just after noon now, the sun beginning to drop. She didn’t want to lose any of the light the she would have. With an abrupt motion, she turned left and began to descend.

The stairs were unnerving. The steps weren’t the right size. She couldn’t find her cadence, each seemed to be just over one and a half strides long and followed by a drop steeper than she anticipated, causing her stomach to catch. There was no hand rail, but there was a gash at shoulder height cut into the wall, running parallel to the stairs. She clung to this as she walked, first with both hands and then just one.

Five minutes in, the light was gone. It happened suddenly. One moment, there was sunlight – dim and wet, but there nonetheless. Then, nothing. The darkness was so abrupt and so complete that she fell, barely catching herself as she landed hard on her knees. She could feel the ledge of the step on the tip of her fingers. She stayed there, catching her breath, trying to control her heart that felt like it had flown up into her throat. Steeling herself, she stood, her knees weak with adrenaline, clutching at the wall on her left. Perhaps she should have chosen the right staircase; she was right-handed, it would have felt better to have her dominant hand ready to grab the wall. Perhaps she would change directions when the staircases intersected again.


She clung to the wall. How were the staircases intersecting? She hadn’t thought about it, she was so intent on the descent, on each step. If the staircases intersected, she would have met with some kind of obstacle by now. The right staircase would have cut off the left, blocking the way. She had seen nothing. As carefully as she could manage, she turned around and looked behind her. Blackness. The light that had guided her down so far had disappeared completely. Was she blind? She touched her nose and then waved her hand vigorously. She felt the air move but could see nothing.

In all directions, there was nothing but blackness, impenetrable, as though she were encased in darkness, in light-eating plasma. Hesitantly, she looked up. Above her, so far it was barely more than a pinprick, was a dot of blue. The sky.

She couldn’t have gone that far, but there it was, miles overhead.

Her heart rammed against her ribs, trying to break out, to escape. She needed to get back, to that dot. She turned around and started inching carefully forward, feeling with her toes for the step up—

Her foot fell forward.

She was dizzy. She was confused. She turned back around, more urgently, feeling forward again – again, her foot fell forward. She spun, trying to find the step up, the way that she had come from, the way back. There was no way up in that direction either. No matter which way she turned, the only way to go was down.


The echo is slow and quiet, travelling up through the corridor. Her rock has hit the bottom.


  1. Hey Susan, just wanted to let you know I enjoyed your flash fiction and your other blog posts intrigue me so I've nominated you for the Liebster award here: http://write-first.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-liebster-award.html. I had to discover new blogs to nominate and found yours. I look forward to reading more of your work. Feel free to ignore the award if you want, it's more like a pat on the back than any official kind of thing, from what I've read about it.

    1. Hi Ben -- Thank you so much, I'm glad you've enjoyed the blog and I appreciate the link. I'll be sure to link back and to respond when I can!