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One Hour in Fifty-four Years

by Authorian


A lone girl, small, young and tired looking, tread down a stretching hall. She turned, her barefeet cold on the glass floor, towards a door. Porcelain fingers curled around the door knob and she pushed the door open.

She stared inside for a moment before entering the room and locking the door, blinking back tears as she gazed at the boy in front of her. His short black hair contrasted with her long blonde, brushing her ankles. Her eyes counted his freckles, familiarity with his features set her more at ease then not. She went tiptoe, leaning towards his slightly parted lips, his eyes closed to her actions, she closed hers as well.

She pulled away from the kiss, her lips letting out a slow breath that he inhaled with a gasp. His arms and chest tightened, his eyes blinked open, and his feet desperately searched for ground.

His lips moved, trying to speak, but no sound escaped. Her eyes smiled as she reached upwards, placing a single, thin finger on his lips.

“Sixty,” she said.

He took a few deep breaths, blinking and looking around the room, his neck sore and taught. His eyes locked with hers and he begged her, without words, to free him.

She reached up and placed her thumb on a panel above him, and a whirr preceded his short drop to the floor.

He realized how cold the room was when his feet and knees hit the smooth floor, his feet bare and calloused. He ran his fingers through his hair, freeing several tangles, and then gazed at the girl with wrinkled brow. The light from the front of the room illuminating her from the back, her appearance angelic.

A gulp alerted him to the dryness of his throat, and when he reached for it, he winced at the soreness of his wrists where they had been tethered up. He stood shakily, his whole body sore and stiff, and looked past her, to the darkened hallway, and then behind him, where a wall stretched directly behind where he’d been suspended.

Warmth from the girls body enveloped his own as she gave him a surprise hug, her hair flying up and back down with the swiftness of the motion. She slipped away, her hand gripping his own, opened the door, and led him through it, her padded feet sending soft echoes down the hallway. His hand rubbed roughly against the softness of hers, and he felt certain that when she let go her hand would no longer shine porcelain, as his own was covered with dirt and grime.

She slowed to a stop at the end of the hallway, in front of the only door he’d seen besides his own. She looked at him with spring green eyes, aglow in a way that pained him, and then led him through the door.

This room was small and comfortable, two beds lined one wall, and a miniature kitchen lined the other. A single book case, filled with books, and an arm chair were along the back wall. He staggered over and collapsed in it, his legs already tired from the short run. He closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose, his eyes cracked open again, an unidentified weight lifted from his shoulders as the smell the hug, the smell of the girl, filled his senses.

Running water reached his ears, he glanced and saw the girl turn off the faucet, walking over with a small glass of water.

He took it from her hands and gulped it down, a smile cracking from the coolness of the liquid. The girl had no larger glasses, but gladly took four trips before the boy stood up and drank directly from the faucet. She giggled as he paused to wash his hands and then continued with all the more vigor, finally switching the water off and wiping several drops from his mouth.

He cleared his throat, and found his voice, “hello,” he said, turning about.

“Hello,” she replied.

“Where am I?”

“Does not matter.”

“Why am I here?”

“If you don’t remember, I shall not say.”

“What will you tell me?”

The girl glanced down, biting her lip. “You have less then a hour. This...” she paused, “is a death sentence.”

“Why was I-”

“In the room? You, and everyone after your sentence, received a unique kind of sentence. You committed a crime, and you must die, but they are no longer allowed to kill prisoners.”

“Why?”

“Thanks to you. You and your colleague cleverly avoided the death sentence, in a way, and made it so the government had to select a compromise.”

“I don’t remember.”

“That was a precaution, they don’t want the criminals waking up still... dangerous.”

“Waking up?”

“You’ve been asleep for years, not aging, except for one thing. Your heart.”

“What?”

“Your heart has been beating, wearing itself down, and today is your last day. I was alerted to wake you when you reached the one hour mark.”

“Where’s my colleague?”

The girl brushed her hair from her face. “Undergoing the death sentence as well.”

“Oh,” he looked at his hands, remembering a time when they were covered with blood, wondering what he could have possibly done, then looked at the girl with a start. “What about you then? Who are you?”

“No one.”

“That can’t be true.”

“I’m no one,” she insisted, her voice breaking.

“Then who am I?”

“Clyde.”

“Clyde who?”

“That’s what you're called.”

He sank to the floor. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Try to remember, that’s what they all do,” she glanced towards the beds. “At least, that’s what I prefer.”

He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Don’t worry, err, is there any food?”

She jumped up, “yes, of course, I’ll get you something.” She swept her hair into a ponytail, and set about preparing some food.

He crawled along the floor and settled between the door and beds, leaning against the wall, thinking. Nothing came to him but the clinking coming from the kitchen, and finally his eyes set about studying the sagging shelves of the book shelf, each one held up by the books on the one beneath.

“Have much company?”

“No,” the girl replied.

“Is this what you do? Wake up the prisoners and accommodate them till they die?”

“Yeah.”

His eyebrows relaxed. “Must be lonely.”

The girl stopped her preparations and glanced at the boy, blinking back tears again. “Yeah, it is,” she said, turning back to her work.

“Do you read?”

“All the time,” she said with forced laughter, trying to mask her budding tears. “All of them over there, they won’t give me more, I’ve tried.” She swished around, her eyes widened and she gasped at the boy, inches from her face. The tea clattered to the ground, splashing over there toes. She winced in pain but he gazed steadily, his toes scrunching in pain of their own accord.

“You’re no nobody.”

She met his gaze steadily, her pulse slowing down. “Thirty,” she breathed out in a whisper.

“What?”

“Thirty minutes left.”

He brushed her tears from her eyes. “What’s your name.”

“I have no name.”

“Then what do they call you?” he said, eyes narrowing.

“They don’t call me anything,” she shook her head, her voice breaking again.

He backed away, his fists clenched. Once he was far enough, she pushed past him, fleeing to the far bed and leaning against the wall, gazing into the corner.

A few minutes later, he cleared his throat. “Twenty-five.”

“Mmhmm.”

“What should we do with them?”

She turned round, sitting cross-legged and placing her chin in her palm. “Try to remember, die with no regrets, they say.”

“What should I remember?”

“Anything you regret.”

Clyde bit the inside of his cheek, trying to remember, but as the minutes ticked away, the only thing he remembered was the blood on his hands. Who it’d belonged to was beyond him. He felt a pain in his chest, a mixture of regret and true pain, when the girl leaned in, pulling him from his daze.

“Five,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “Do you remember? At the very least?”

“No,” he groaned, clutching his chest. “Who are you? It must be important.”

“I’m undergoing the death sentence as well, as I said. I hoped you’d remember.” She threw her arms around him, clutching him in a hug.

Everything flooded back to him. The experiments, the murder, the death sentence, and her.

“Marigold,” he said with a sob, hugging her back, tighter, as tears slipped down his cheeks.

“You remember,” she gasped.

“I’m sorry,” his face contorted into an uncontrollable frown that he struggled to speak intelligibly through. “How long were you here?”

“Too long.”

“How long,” he insisted, his heart slowing.

She let out a slow breath, “fifty-five years.”

“I’m sorry.” He buried her face in her shoulder, and she patted his head.

“I know, sleep now.”

As his heart slowed to a stop, Marigold smiled weakly, and placed one last kiss on his lips.


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Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:18 am
BluesClues wrote a review...



Since part of this was entered into the narrative voice contest, I’ll start with that. (The narration, I mean, not the excerpt on its own. I’m reviewing the whole thing!)

I’m not sure if you intended it, but the narration is almost objective. With few exceptions, it mostly describes what each character does and says without delving into the mind of either one. You let us into each character a little bit—Marigold comforted by Clyde’s familiarity, Clyde remembering blood on his hands but nothing else—but not very deeply, which makes it difficult to sympathize with either character. This is especially true since we start off reading with no names for either of them, no quirks of personality, no specific memories of either good or bad times. Then there’s the fact that Marigold’s actions are all at odds with each other: first she seems tired, then happy to see Clyde (and familiar with him, as she kisses him on the lips to wake him), then perhaps a moment of sadness, then stoicism breaking into amusement while she’s giving him water (at which point in the story it seems like he’s just another prisoner to her), then back to sadness breaking through. I understand at the end that it turns out she does know him—once he remembers her on his own—but there doesn’t seem to be any reason for her to refuse to even tell him her name.

If there is a reason, that’s cool, but it should probably be hinted at in that case. Let Marigold be our third-person narrator so we can see inside her head as to why she wouldn’t just try to remind him who she is before he dies. Or let Clyde ask, after he remembers her, why she didn’t tell him. As it stands, that was something that bothered me. I mean, obviously if someone has some sort of amnesia it’s no good to just be all, “We’re in love! Together forever! How aren’t you getting this?” because I don’t know about you, but that would freak me out if someone I didn’t remember and wasn’t even sure I actually knew just started telling me how in love we were before whatever caused my amnesia.

THEN AGAIN, she did already kiss him on the lips, so. That was already a bit invasive if it’s a case of not wanting to push him too hard before he remembers who she is.

But just telling him her name. Or something. Or even being like, “Don’t you remember anything?”

Which also lets him tell the reader more—if not her—in better detail what little he does remember. The blood on his hands. His colleague, whom he obviously remembers something about—more than the incident that caused the blood. What does he remember about his colleague? A name? A trait? Any part of his or her physical appearance?

Details like that—about Clyde’s colleague and about Clyde and Marigold’s history together—will make these characters come alive. Let us get deeper into at least one of their heads. Or you can go with a more omniscient viewpoint and delve into both of them. In that case, you just have to make sure your transitions between characters are smooth enough that we always understand whose head we’re in. The idea behind the story is so intriguing (I’m especially interested in Marigold’s job being to spend prisoners’ last hour with them—what a depressing job, but how many stories must she have heard?), but we need stronger narration with more details about the characters so it really draws us in.

BlueAfrica




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Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:19 pm
ShadowedStart wrote a review...



Hello

I really liked your short story, the description in the beginning was spot on but it feels like it was fading out too fast. The way you wrote your characters personalities through how they acted was really amazing.

But looking at it as a whole, it is a really good story, it just needed more in the end. It is well written up to the dialogue but it just needs to show us what else is going on. I can't wait to see more of your work.




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Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:12 am
OliveDreams wrote a review...



Hi Authorian :) Here to review your short story. Your title caught my eye.

Ok - all things great;

I love the description of the girl looking at the boy - especially the counting freckles part.

You’ve created a great sense of eeriness about the piece! This girl creeps me out and you’ve done a great job at being able to feel the boy’s fear and unease of her.

I love the twist at the ending! I wish I had a bit more info though! What did he do???

Points you could improve:

You’re first paragraph is great for description but if you read through it again, you’ll realise how many times you use the word ‘door’. It’s a door overload! You could change the last ‘door’ to ‘it’ & you could say that she is moving towards the end of the hall rather than towards a door. That way you actually only use it twice.

The comparison to the the lone, tired looking girl wandering down the hall is suddenly very different to the girl we see holding this power over the boy. Was this intentional? I’m a bit confused. Is she timid and tired? Or confident and powerful?

- oh wait now she’s lonely again. I’m sort of starting to figure out. She just needs to be a little more refined in your writing.

He just said ‘oh’ to learning that this was his last hour alive?!?! I don’t know about you - but I would definitely have a much stronger reaction to this bit of news!

Good Luck! Feel free to ask any questions, anytime :)

Olive <3




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Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:18 am
kevin25a wrote a review...



I think changing the title too "One hour in fifty four years" would make more sense. Since he was gone for fifty four years, and they only had one hour together. Changing it from "and" to "in" just makes more sense and flows better with the story in my opinion.

I absolutely loved the story, it was beautiful. Waking up, slowly remembering, and having one perfect moment just as you flatline.

Although he was kind of stupid for needing to remember to know. She said his partner had also been sentenced, and she had said she was sentenced. It took him over a half hour too remember, but putting two and two together would have allowed him to know much sooner and enjoy they're last moments together longer. Although it is more beautiful and perfect like this, but yeah I kinda figured it out only halfway through.

I was wondering if I understood it right, she was awake for the entire time? Or did she get woken up a little bit before him?




Authorian says...


Yeah, she was awake the whole time. This was a one shot, and I think it might be kinda strange, but I like the standoffish element I incorporated. Oh well, what's written is written.



kevin25a says...


I wasn't saying it was wrong, I liked how it was written. I do the same, but I write 5 chapters of my stories in a sitting, I like quick feedback but I publish only once a week. I loved the story though.



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Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:18 pm
DeepCrystal wrote a review...



Wow, that was melancholy. Returning only to see him die. Strange death sentence too, sleeping until the heart has reached its limit. It also sounds like there was a love story involved to. Maybe sometime you would elaborate on that. A prequel maybe? I'd like to comment on the amount of dialogue. Dialogue is good, but sometimes there needs to be description. How are they speaking? What are they doing? Also go back an proofread this as I did see some typos and word confusions.




Authorian says...


Thanks for the pointers, I wrote this in one sitting and wanted to get feedback quickly. I'm a little too impatient sometimes... I'll work on the dialogue and proofread soon!




Don't go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you nothing; it was here first.
— Mark Twain