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40 Seconds

by Aari


---Just wanted to let you know, this is a non-fiction piece, and this happened when I was 15---



Imagine the worst place you could be during an earthquake. Now imagine you were naked.

April 2015, Nepal.

11: 45, I left my cousin with my laptop, and I promised we’d go get some nuggets and fries when I got out of the shower. 11:56, I was rinsing my hair when I started to feel a little dizzy, and two seconds later I realized the building was shaking. I thought it’d stop soon, so I didn’t freak out until four more seconds had passed. Fuck, I am not gonna run out naked. I was on the third floor of an apartment building, in the shower, and I could see the walls shaking back and forth, and that’s when I knew I was going to die. 

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die. I turned off the water and held on to the shower knob handle because the building was shaking so hard, I was surprised the ceilings hadn’t fallen yet. I was contemplating if I should stay in the bathroom and wait for it to stop, but it feels like it’s already been two minutes and an earthquake shouldn’t last this long. It’s only a number of seconds until this entire building collapses, and tomorrow morning, there’ll be a news that says, “Naked dead body found under a pile of debris and mud”, or grab my towel and run out, but if I let go of this handle, I might fall down, split my head open and die, and the next morning the news will say, “Naked lady found dead in the shower.” I stood there, debating if I should hurry out and slip and die or stay there and die. Why is this not a dream! It reminded me of those annoying Would You Rather questions, and this was “Would you rather go out naked to save your life or die with clothes on?” Only at this moment, I realized I would choose to die fully clothed.

These were my actual thoughts at that moment, but then a more important thought hit me, “Oh, fuck! My cousin.” I realized the 8-year-old boy must’ve been scared considering I was in the bathroom and no one else was at home. After the realization, I wrapped my towel around me and opened the bathroom door where I saw Aadi standing right in front of me, and I could hear my terrified neighbors screaming outside. He looked relieved to see me, and said, “Let’s get out of this building.” I am not going out with a towel on. “I am going to get dressed real quick. Take cover under that table. Don’t go anywhere.” I hastily put on my clothes and when I went outside he was gone. This kid. As I proceeded to walk out of my front door, the building had slowly become motionless, and the earthquake had finally stopped. “Oh, thank god” I sighed with relief. I looked out from the balcony and my cousin was on the ground floor. He saw me and signaled me to get downstairs. I saw ten other neighbors with him, some of them were crying while some were consoling others. I rushed downstairs and hugged him. The neighbors said it’s not safe to go back inside the buildings. My phone was in the house, so we couldn’t contact our family, and my wallet was inside too, “Aw, man. We can’t go get nuggets and fries now?” I said to Aadi, and we laughed. We thought that was the end of the earthquake, and I was getting worried about all the assignments I had to do. I wanna know if the earthquake affected the entire city, or if it was just my area. I want to tell my friends about this crazy experience I just had. I’ll probably get an excuse for not doing my homework.

Little did I know there would be more earthquakes (aftershocks), 38 that very day. The next day I wouldn’t go to school. I wouldn’t go to school for two entire months. I would look at the news the next morning, and I wouldn’t see a “Naked lady dies” headline. I would see that the earthquake was 7.9 Richter scale in magnitude, it had lasted for 40 seconds, and 8,000 people had died across Nepal. And even after more than a year, 459 more aftershocks would follow.



Ps. Please let me know if the first two sentences are funny. Does it sound like forced humor? Please be honest, you are not going to hurt my feelings.


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20 Reviews


Points: 21
Reviews: 20

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Sun Jan 19, 2020 3:25 am
Josie24 wrote a review...



Okay, so a lot of things have been mentioned by other people that reviewed this story, but I'll give it a go.
First, I did laugh a little at the first two sentences, but then I cringed because I would not like to ever have that happen to me. That is a nightmare.
Second, I am really glad you made it out alive. Though that might not mean a lot from a faceless person on the internet (I do have a face, but I assume you know what I meant), but I am. I have lived in places where tremors were not uncommon, and some earthquakes did occur, but nothing on that large a scale, and no one really panicked. The locals considered it bad luck if the ground didn't shake at least once a month, which I found concerning.
Third, (actual reviewing time) when you wrote about the headlines, shouldn't all the words be capitalized? You know, titles and all that jazz.
Fourth, I love how your first thoughts were about clothes, chicken nuggets and fries, and excuses for not doing homework. That part put a smile on my face, though I probably wouldn't have similar thoughts in that situation.
Finally, I know this review probably won't help you. You most likely will either skim over it, even if you read it at all. It's not my most criticizing work-far from it. Your work has already been taken apart by others, but I honestly enjoyed reading about your experiences, and any mistakes you made didn't really detract any focus from the story you told.




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49 Reviews


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Reviews: 49

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Mon Nov 18, 2019 6:39 am
Anamel wrote a review...



The introduction is certainly attention-grabbing. I think it's great for making a new reader continue to read on, like a hooker in an essay. Because it's the beginning, it will also set the scene for the rest of the story, whether the actual scene being humorous or the narrator's personality/main character's personality being that of a jokester.

I'd suggest italicizing the dates and times just for the sake of the presentation. I'm noticing that it seems like a diary entry, I don't know if this is what you're going for yet and seems more memory-related rather than descriptive which is fine. If not, doing more showing than telling would make the earthquake scarier. I also think with the spoiler alert sentence should start a new paragraph because a big chunky paragraph is gonna scare new readers away.

I was contemplating if I should stay in the bathroom and wait for it to stop, but it feels like it’s already been two minutes and an earthquake shouldn’t last this long. It’s only a number of seconds until this entire building collapses, and tomorrow morning, there’ll be a news that says, “Naked dead body found under a pile of debris and mud”, or grab my towel and run out, but if I let go of this handle, I might fall down, split my head open and die, and the next morning the news will say, “Naked lady found dead in the shower.”

This is a pretty big run-on sentence, but it seems like it could be intentional if the character is freaking out. It's a bit much to take in, however. Also you switch from normal storytelling to italicized thoughts which I think you should put a break between those and separate it into two different sentences.

He looked relieved to see me, and said, “Let’s get out of this building.” I am not going out with a towel on.

For an eight-year-old he seems pretty relaxed meanwhile this older main character is freaked out. it seems like the 8 year would be equally scared.

“Oh, thank god” I sighed with relief.
(put a comma after thank god)

I thought it was entertaining to read and enjoyable however there's an issue with run-ons, some grammatical issues, and the format mainly. Otherwise nice to read.




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133 Reviews


Points: 374
Reviews: 133

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Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:52 am
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DrFeelGood wrote a review...



Hey Aari, DrFeelGood here to review your unusual piece. Let's dive into this piece shall we?

Plot

I am a little puzzled with the intention of this piece. It starts out as a black comedy shifting our attention to nakedness instead of earthquake. While the first lines are not very funny by themselves, they set the momentum for unpredictable jokes. However, I do not see anything unpredictable again in the entire piece. The naked protagonist joke is repeated again and it eventually ends with some exposition about the tragedy.

As I understand, your focus is to highlight the conflict of your protagonist whether they should save their life or save themselves from the embarrassment of dying naked. A fascinating premise, but needs some groundwork in order to shine. Let me elaborate this in my next point.

Humor

Talking about the humor of this piece, your first two lines basically give away the plot. You even mention spoiler alert very early into the piece but don't really throw a curveball at us to justify its existence.

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die. I turned off the water and held on to the shower knob handle


Instead of stating right away that your protagonist is going to be safe, how about creating a suspense about the ending? Raise the stakes, and take your reader to unusual places. It keeps the readers interested in the story. What if there are minor obstacles in the way of your protagonist getting dressed. Like the closet itself is shaking, the clothes fall into the toilet or something like that. You get the point.

Miscellaneous Points

I also found it difficult to keep a track of the story due to your rapid pacing. Fast pacing is a good thing but you should slow down sometimes to build your characters or craft emotional moments. Like in the last paragraph, I believe the intention is to have an emotional realization about the volume of the tragedy. It dawns on your protagonist that while she was contemplating whether she'll be in an embarrassing headline, the headline itself was much more serious and saddening.

The concept is very inventive and if executed with panache, a top-notch idea. You need to slow down, build the character through actions instead of telling the reader about the challenges.

I wouldn’t see a “Naked lady dies” headline. I would see that the earthquake was 7.9 Richter scale in magnitude, it had lasted for 40 seconds ...


Instead of giving us facts about the event, go straight up to main point.

Next day, I opened the newspaper. There was no news about the naked lady. 8000 people dead in worst tragedy of the decade it read.


Notice, the impact? Even better, go back to the first time you mention headline about naked lady and tweak words from the joke and turn it into a tragedy. The impact intensifies further.

Additionally, a lot of your short story feels more like a screenplay with straight up description of the date and place like this,

April 2015, Nepal.

11: 45, I left my cousin with my laptop


The place, the time needs to be part of the narrative in a short story. There are also a lot of afterthoughts like opportunity to skip the homework, earthquake being a memorable story for your protagonist. Instead of telling this to us, show it through actions.

Overview

I think you have got something here. It is an unusual story with uber loads of potential to mine twisted laughs and hit the reader with an emotional punch at the end. The setup is great, you need to craft genuine scenarios and show us through actions why they are important to the protagonist. With some fine-tuning this can turn into a great piece. Good luck!




Aari says...


Hi, thank you so much for all of the feedback. I really appreciate it. I should've mentioned that this is actually a non-fiction piece. I guess that would change how you read it. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.

Aari




A classic is a book which people praise and don't read.
— Mark Twain