Last Monday (april 2015, the 6th), inspired by a photograph, I wrote a short story (1 300 words).
This photograph can be found on Guy Morant’s blog, used at the beginning of a very interesting article on the influence of ruins on literature.
By the way: Guy wrote a short-story, too, on the same kind of subject. It can be read here (in french). Guy Morant usually writes novels designed for young readers (although « Whisky », its last short story is more « adult »).
His books can be bought on amazon here.
Back to the topic: I have to admit that I’m fascinated by photographs of derelict buildings. I recently found out that this kind of photograph is called “urbex”. You shall find at the end of this article some links to urbex websites that I used for documentation on a specific derelict hotel.
I have also discussed this subject on my own facebook profile last Monday. Here is what I had to say about it:
“Ruins have always been a deep source of inspiration for many authors / artists / photographers / etc. (those categories are non-exclusive to each other, btw. I feel I’m pretty often in an “etc.” kind of category, myself)
Back to the topic… I think those photographs are both sad and poetic. They are passed envisions of “what were / have been” (sometimes not so long ago, actually).
I feel a deep sensation of bewilderment when I come to think that, at some point in the past, people were sitting inside this small train, going through that cat’s (or tiger) mouth, shouting and laughing (or maybe passing out because of fear ^^).”
Those were my thoughts on the topic when I decided to commit a short story. I had to abide by Guy Morant’s wish that someone would take his/her pen and write a small text on a single photograph of an abandoned ballroom. He was giving away the first lines, too, asking people to go on from that and, well, write something just for the sake of writing (huh, what else?).
Those first lines happen to be the first four lines of my short story. I only changed the first word (“She”) by a first name (“Lilth”). Beyond that, I didn’t change anything.
If, after reading my story, you decide to write a short story, too, please let me know the results! I’ll be glad to add a link to your own blog article.
Also, please don’t flame me too much… It’s one of my first attempts to translate a short story in english. It’s bound to have some flaws, of course… On the other hand, don’t hesitate to kindly point them out to me. 🙂 I promise I won’t bark or bite (too much) !
« How to »
* For Devices using the Kindle app
* For the Nook app
* For the Kobo app
Ready? Read on !
Detroit, 1991, March the 20th.
Lilith grasped the dried-out bride’s bouquet and closed her eyes. Visions of the past invaded her thoughts. She could hear the music, played by a jazz band, and smell the perfumes of the dancers and of the bouquet of roses she still held close to her chest. Around her, the whirlwind of the dance made her feel dizzy.
Suddenly, everything stopped. Lilith looked down and stared at her hands: the last petals of her bouquet of roses had just got loose. They slowly floated down to the ground, only to lay still on the layer of dust that covered everything in the ballroom.
— What on earth happened here? Where are they gone?
Lilith’s voice echoed on the walls of faded colors, covered in cobwebs.
It was near midnight but traffic still jammed the roads. Car horns and shouts arose from the streets, a few districts away, sometimes abruptly interrupted by sudden outbursts of gunshots.
People are fleeing. Where to? From what? They probably don’t even know.
Only a week had gone by since the ballroom went silent. Right before that, it was still alive and kicking, filled with rich people dancing and looking for distractions from work. Then, a minute – no, a mere second – later, everything changed. Dancers froze, then began falling where they stood. The orchestra went silent and the decay took over. From there, it swept through the stairs, going further down the building as the minutes went by, like a silent gangrene.
The next day, the infamous Lee Plaza hotel rapidly aged, declining as the sun made its way through the sky. As the night settled down, it was no more than a shaky ruin. Nearby houses weren’t spared, either.
Lilith went to an open window and tried to close it, but the aluminum frame came apart. Windows panes crashed down, changing into a sort of white dust as they touched the ground. Lilith let go of the piece of metal. It met the same fate as the window panes. She was not surprised. She had already visited the abandoned mansions on the other side of the street, where she had seen this strange phenomenon occur several times.
According to the previous day’s local newspapers headlines, everything was rotting at full speed up to one or two kilometers square around where she now stood. It was a near perfect surrounding, too, with the Lee Plaza hotel as its center. Right where her brother had been, when…
Even though authorities tried to sound reassuring, Lilith thought that, before long, the whole city was going to follow suit. And if there really was nothing to fear, no sanitary risks or whatever, as was claiming the official propaganda, the district of Lee Plaza Hotel would not have been sealed off. Police barricades had been put into places, effectively blocking all avenues and small alleys many square miles around. It made it difficult for Lilith to approach Lee Plaza Hotel, but she eventually found an unwatched side alley.
Some at the city council suggested restoring martial law and banning people from leaving the city or even simply getting out of their home. But it only made things worse and panic was spreading like hell.
Even without mentioning the influence of decay, people were leaving the city like there was no tomorrow. Soon enough, maybe before the end of the month, Detroit would become history.
Shots bursts in the street, again, noted Lilith.
Those who had no cars desperately wanted to get one. Those who had one would do well to have armored window panes and not open their doors until they get out of the city.
Thinking about her own car, parked nearby, Lilith shrugged. Something told her she wouldn’t need it anymore, soon.
She bent down to take a look at a newspaper lying in the dust, by her feet. It was dated back to March, the 13th.
The day it happened…
One of the most disturbing fact about this strange string of events was that as a result of the decay spreading around, people disappeared. Nobody had seen anyone get out of Lee Plaza hotel or out of the surrounding houses. More than fifty thousand people had just been deleted and nobody knew anything about their true fate. Nobody seemed to care, too.
A cold breeze swept through the wide-opened windows, lifting up a thick ochre cloud of dust. Lilith shivered and tightly closed her coat.
What the hell am I doing here?
She knew the answer better than anyone: her brother, Matheo, was among the goners. A brother whom she didn’t met more than once a year. She didn’t recognize him, last time they met. He had become skinny and his hallucinated eyes frightened her. That day, she decided not to accept his invitations to Detroit anymore. It was six months ago and she had kept her words, since then. Of course, it didn’t prevent Matheo from harassing her with letters and phone calls. She was talking with him on her cell phone when everything stopped. Before it happened. Matheo was so excited that what he said sometimes just made no sense at all.
— I made it! He yelled. I found the book I told you about, last time we met. I have tried out all of the listed experiments and a few of my attempts got positive results. Do you remember the (…) — for a few seconds, she couldn’t hear him — and there was also the (…). Hey, are you listening, Lilith?
— Matheo, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you properly.
Her husband was waiting for her, lying on the couch. She wanted to hang up and swiftly get to bed.
— I can see you coming. I won’t buy your “going through the tunnel” bullshit, ok? I know you’re at home. Actually, I want you to come here. You HAVE to contemplate with your own eyes what I have achieved. I am going to show you everything, this time. I know you wouldn’t believe me if I told you what’s going on, anyway. I swear, it is of utmost impor…
He didn’t hang up; it only seemed as if he had fallen silent. Lilith stood there, waiting for her brother to talk again, but he didn’t. Then, after what felt like eternity, communication was cut out. She called back, only to be told by a mechanical voice that the dialed number was “not in service”.
Each time she breathed, now, a light freezing mist formed right by her mouth. She reached out for her polar pullover and put her coat back on it, but the coldness in the air quickly increased.
It’s coming from upstairs, she thought.
Without actually planning it, she found herself climbing on the rusted main staircase, going up to the roof of the hotel. From there, the view was beautiful and she stopped to take a look at Detroit. But then, Lilith turned around and her heart sank. Here, too, decay’s claws had left visible scars: the ground of one of the two triangular towers of Lee Plaza Hotel was littered with stones and rusty iron bars. The roof was also partly gone and she could have easily jumped down to death. What stopped her from committing suicide was the uncertainty that she would rejoin with her brother if she did.
She braced herself up and went to the second triangular tower, on the other side of the roof. It was shadowy, inside, and it took Lilith some time before she could see she was not alone: there laid a dark silhouette. It was almost invisible and its body had fuzzy outlines. On some places, glimpse of its ivory skeleton could be seen. Its hands, in particular, seemed to be made of bare bones and torn ligaments. The blistering cold the creature exuded surrounded it with white vapor, within which it’s black and cracked skin stood out all too clearly. It was big, even though it was curled up on itself.
It was slightly trembling.
Lilith backed away, but the creature turned her gaze toward her, piercing her heart with its amber-like red eyes. It opened jaws devoid of teeth and stuck out its tongue, longer and more flexible than that of a snake. The ground it stood on had become so thin it was almost possible to see through it.
Lilith tried to yell, but her tongue remained stuck to the roof of her mouth. She wanted to run away, but her legs were deeply frozen up to her ankles. She raised her arms to protect herself but they were so cold that her elbows broke apart and fell to the ground, bursting instantly into a myriad of small and liquid splinters.
Her last thoughts were for her brother: Matheo, what have you done?
Her eyes then closed and a thick darkness fell on her. For eternity.