Recently, Jay Dee Archer over at I Read Encyclopedias decided to start a new writing challenge called “What Will You Write?” The idea is that Jay posts the beginning of a scene, and we (the participants) have to finish it. There’s a deadline, and once it is past Jay will judge all the entrants and decide who he thinks did the best job. There are a few other rules, and if you’re interested you should check out the first edition of the challenge here. By the time you read this the first challenge deadline will likely be up, but keep an eye out because I’m sure there will be many more coming. 🙂
Since the writing for the challenge is fictional in nature, I thought this would be a great opportunity for something new to post for Fiction Fragment Fridays. So this is the way it goes: the text in bold is the “prompt” written by Jay. What follows in regular text is my addition. Please feel free to let me know what you think! And if you’re interested in joining in on the next challenge, make sure to visit Jay’s blog and follow him so that you won’t miss it! 🙂
Conrad opened his eyes to a view of a massive blue globe. He jerked back and twisted around in the microgravity. He touched something solid in front of him. A window.
He pushed against the window and turned around. Conrad scanned the small room, no larger than a public bathroom stall, and empty except for an EV spacesuit and door. He studied the view through the window. Neptune, he thought. How did I get here?
His head was ringing, and his body was covered only by his boxer shorts and a loose white t-shirt. He tried to think back, but the last thing he could recall was sitting in that little coffee shop on Mars. Had he even finished his coffee? The memory was hazy, as though it had happened a lifetime ago.
“What happened to me?” he whispered to himself. He was surprised to find that his throat was hoarse and croaky…a sign of lack of use?
With few options available to him, Conrad reached for the spacesuit and manoeuvred himself into it. Even with the microgravity working with his body, he felt achy and weak. He didn’t want to think about it, but the evidence thus far caused him to believe that he must have been unconscious for quite some time. Or perhaps he had been drugged and the effects hadn’t worn off. Either way, he was concerned.
The door didn’t have a handle, but it slid open at his touch, moving as quietly as a baby’s breath. Conrad peeked out into a vast white hallway. It was silent as a grave, and empty save for the dozens of identical doors that lined both sides of it. The end of the hall nearest Conrad appeared to be a dead end. The opposite end was so far away that he couldn’t tell if there were any turns from here. All he could see were the doors. He thought there must have been a few hundred of them.
Tentatively, nervously, Conrad stepped out into the hallway. The door to his room slid shut behind him. He immediately began to shiver a bit. There was something truly frightening about this completely white hallway, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He almost reached for the door to his room, intending to return and hope that someone would come to him, but when he turned to it he noticed a tiny white placard on the wall next to the door. It was so small that he might never have seen it if it hadn’t been at exactly eye level. It blended into the wall, but the small black letters were what had caught his eye.
3 Counts of Premeditated Murder
Conrad felt his heart constrict. He reached out with a shaking hand to touch the words, praying to ever God that ever was that he was imagining what he saw. But no. He could feel the indentation of the words drilled into the placard.
“You’re new,” a gentle voice spoke. Conrad nearly jumped out of his skin. He whirled around and found the source of the voice. A girl – no older than 15 – was standing in the open doorway of her own room across the hall. She had been pretty once, Conrad thought, with her long blond hair and bright blue eyes. But her hair was hanging limp, and her eyes had very dark circles around them that gave her the appearance of having not slept in a very long time. “You’re new,” she repeated.
Conrad opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again, but he wasn’t sure what to say. He stared at the girl, confused, upset, angry, before his eyes found the little placard next to her door.
5 Counts of Kidnapping and Child Endangerment
30 Year Sentence
Conrad’s eyes returned to meet Eliza’s. His mouth felt dry. “I didn’t do it,” he found himself saying. His hand seemed to move of its own accord to point at the placard with his name on it. “I didn’t do it,” he said again. “I never killed anyone.” He licked his lips. He felt as though he was listening to his own voice from a far away place. Surely this had to be a dream. “I’ve never even been in a fist fight,” he added, as though that meant something.
Eliza smiled a little, but her eyes were sad. “We’re all innocent here,” she told him. “But that doesn’t seem to mean much to the politicians whose crimes we’ve been chosen to pay for.”
Panic was setting in. All of a sudden a thousand images were flowing into Conrad’s mind. His wife and daughter, whom he’d left sleeping in bed when he decided to visit his favorite coffee shop. His sick father, who would be needing his medication soon. His mechanic job at the interplanetary travel agency, where his closest friends would be wondering where he’d gone. All the things he’d planned to do and not yet done. All the things he’d never known he wanted to do, but were suddenly filling his mind and body with desires.
“I can’t be here,” he croaked. “This isn’t right. I have a family, a life. I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong!” By now he was screaming, and all up and down the long, white hallway, other heads were starting to peek through their respective doors. Some of them had begun to walk toward Conrad, and it was making him feel like a small, trapped animal. He tried to back away, but Eliza had moved in front of him and had her hands on either side of his face.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But unless you think you can jump to Neptune from here, the life you left behind is over. Welcome to the Intergalactic Government’s robotic, automated prison for completely innocent scapegoats.”