Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Gazing into the Abyss

She waited, trembling, for them to call his name. Or hers.
The sweat stained Mayor picked a folded slip, passed it to David to read out.
“David Osborne.”
He crushed it. Dropped it. It rolled to a stop against her foot.
He strode to the hatch, his body no longer warming the space next to her. She felt the impossibly small drop in temperature. But the hairs on her arm bristled for a different reason. 
“Come on, Em. Don’t be like this. It’s what we’ve worked for all this time.”
“What you’ve worked for, David.”
He yawned, popping his ears. Equalising the pressure of the descent, she knew, but she couldn’t let the chance pass.
“Sorry, am I boring you? At least you can listen now you are in the same room as me.”
“Em, I’m not...”
“...Not what? Not tired from spending all night out... again? Not wishing it wasn’t me here with you?”
His eyes flashed, cold and dangerous like the darkening water surrounding them.
“That’s not fair and you know it! There were a million details to settle recently. Who was going to sort them out – you?”
“...and why not? We started this project together. I know every inch of the design, even if it’s your brainchild. ‘You’re not just a pretty face are you?’ You used to say that when I surprised you knowing about the schematics Well, it seems that just a pretty face was all you were really interested in – once I got your funding lined up. We are – were – a team, David.”
“There’s no ‘I’ in team, Emma.”
“Is that the best you’ve got...?”
“... but there is a ‘me’, isn’t there? If you twist it. The way you twist everything.”
He took a step towards me then stopped. He drew a deep ragged breath. He exhaled as if more air came out than went in. His shoulders sagged, deflated, defeated.
“Whatever. I’m going to glad-hand the VIPs. You have the conn.”
The hatch closed, leaving me alone and still fuming. That was quicker than I expected. He gave in too easily now. You can’t fight properly unless you get in close, and we got so close we swore we’d never be apart.
Who was he close to now, I wondered. I wiped my eyes with my coverall sleeve, making a note to check the humidity later.
My hand hovered over the button. Was I really ready for this?
Hell yes! I slammed the button and held on. We lurched, our descent speed increasing rapidly.
I flicked the tannoy. “Emergency buoyancy loss! Brace for impact! Brace for impact!”
We hit bottom hard.
The VIPs had bickered, but it was obvious. David or I had to man the escape pod.
Two names in the helmet. Let fate decide.
 The sub rocked as the pod launched with a whoosh.
She had almost emptied the air tanks in it. No chance of making the surface.
She retrieved the crumpled slip. Unravelled it.
‘Emma Osborne’

500 words

This story was written for Alissa Leonard’s FinishThat Thought Flash Fiction Challenge #11

The story was judged the WINNER of the Judge's Challenge Category of the contest.
Judge Rebekah Postupak said:-
Judge's Challenge: @NickJohns999. While I'm not sure why the POV switched from 3rd to 1st person midway, the abyss of deep water is pivotal to this story's central crisis and also serves as a stark metaphor of David & Emma's lethally destructive relationship. In the tradition of Stephen King, "Abyss" is utterly tragic and utterly terrifying; and it is utterly inseparable from its watery setting. It's a powerful and full-bodied use of the challenge, deserving of the challenge title.

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