Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Chamber - First WriteCampaign Challenge

The first challenge of Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Campaign has been issued. The challenge is to write a story of 200 words or fewer, starting with the words "The door swung open." Extra degrees of difficulty can be added by ending the story with the words "the door swung shut" and/or hitting exactly 200 words. Naturally, I couldn't make it easy on myself...

I hope you enjoy this little story, where a number of people step into, but don't step out of...

The Chamber

The door swung open. The next person in line entered the empty chamber. Dr. Ziegler fiddled with the control panel and the chamber door closed. A buzz filled the room. A light on the panel switched from steady green to flashing amber. A minute later the door re-opened on a barren chamber.

Next was a young girl holding a stuffed animal tightly to her chest. A woman, presumably her mother, prodded her. The girl hesitated.

"I told you, Eliza. One at a time. Hurry!"

The young girl carefully walked through the door. Zieglar repeated his motions. The buzz rose, the lights changed.

The older woman practically ran through the door. Ziegler wondered how many more there were as the machine went to work. Ten more, then twenty. Finally Ziegler saw the man he knew would end the line, Josef, his second in command.

"Is this all?" Ziegler asked.

"Yes, sir."

All the rest entered the chamber one by one. Josef replaced Ziegler at the controls.

"You have the remote?"

"You bet, Doc. I'm not staying for the fireworks."

Ziegler nodded and entered the chamber, eager to be off the doomed asteroid. Josef adjusted the controls. The door swung shut.

69 comments:

  1. Good job Michael. I was wondering what they were doing and where they were right up to the last paragraph. Nice little suspenseful story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michael,

    Great job on incorporating both the suggested beginning and end! Isn't it a blast writing off prompts? It's amazing how quickly something can grab your brain's attention and roll with it!

    I liked your science-fiction twist on the challenge. You've got me curious about why the asteroid is doomed, why they're on it -- with children, nonetheless -- and what caused the issues in the first place! But that's the beauty of flash fiction. I don't have to get the answers!

    Thanks for posting this and letting us read! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great take on the challenge. I like the science fiction genre. It feels as though it's a snippet of a longer piece.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very nicely done! I like your writing! I'd love to read more!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mmm, science fiction, I love it! Very well written, mysterious till the very end. Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really like this! At the beginning I was thinking Nazis, but then at the end it got that awesome sci-fi twist. I agree with the others--this really feels like it could be just a small snippet of a larger story. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh that sounds intriguing. I could tell there was a sci fi twist to this from the beginning and I wasn't disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nicely done! I love sci-fi so that drew me in straight away. Definitely fits the opening/shutting door image and you played around with that quite a bit...didn't just use it to open/close the story. Sarah xx

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks, everyone for your comments! Glad that you all enjoyed the story so much.

    Now I'm off to read your stories! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice job Michael! I agree that holding back the nature of the room until the very end added to the tension and increased my curiosity about what was going on. Until that moment of revelation, several possibilities had entered my mind, and I wondered if you might have decided to blend a little horror into your SF. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I could see why your wife was a little distrubed. But that could also be a good sign.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I liked the questioning I experienced while reading it. Where is this going? What could it be? Many possibilities flitted into my mind. At the end, answers came with more questions.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi, Michael. Fellow Campaigner here. I volunteered as one of the judges for the first Challenge.

    Your piece has been shortlisted as one of my top 5 from my assigned group of entries and will move on to stage two in the Challenge! There will be a semi-final (stage 3) and final (stage 4).

    Congrats and nice work!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I thought it sounded apocalyptic, and you don't get much more so than a doomed asteroid. I love the suspense in it, and the carried tension. Awesome writing!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for the comments. I'm thrilled that this story worked for readers the way I imagined it in my mind.

    @K. M., woo-hoo! Thanks for the good news. There are a lot of great stories being posted for this, so it's very pleasing to get to move on to a second stage!

    @Francesca, I wasn't thinking that when I typed the name Dr. Ziegler at first, but it occurred to me mid-composition. Once it did the name of his second in command seemed fitting.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nice job. You had me so curious through the entire thing!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I was curious, and dreading the reveal at the end, and then relieved. In 200 words, you yo-yoed my emotions. Great work!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Michael! Enjoyed your story--great tension! Made me think of Twilight Zone :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Not a Sci Fi fan, but totally enjoyed these 200 words, intriguing to the end.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Where have they all gone on to though? I want to know more...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Reaaly great stuff : starts out sinister, then becomes intriguing, then, ultimately, satisfying. Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Loved the buildup and suspense. Also, love your SF bent - I know it's what you write and in the past I was an avid reader, but I haven't read much lately. This was such a great re-entry back into the genre for me.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and praise particularly from those who don't consider themselves SF fans!

    @D.J., Honestly, "to safety" is about all that I have on that front.

    @Coleen, I know that TZ-type stories may be considered a bit "retro" by some, but those are still words of high praise to me as someone who was raised on (the 2nd iteration) of the show. I was intentionally trying to evoke that sense with pre-title intro.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I liked that and I agree it had a TZ feel to it. That's a GOOD thing in my book!

    ReplyDelete
  25. You kept me suspended and curious. I was hooked on, "Why are they hopping in this chamber? What is going on? Is this a mad doc doing mad things to good folks?" Then you wrapped it up nicely at the end. I really enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I like how nicely you incorporated the beginning and the ending prompt. I was hooked right away and kept wondering what's going to happen with all these people in the chamber!

    Thanks for commenting on my entry! Looking forward to the next assignment :-)

    ReplyDelete
  27. I too thought apocalyptic; great job! Just enough information and suspense; really nice writing Michael!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I thought it was something completely different until I reached the bit about the asteroid. Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Nicely done! A great exercise. You have a talent for writing short fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  30. You had me hooked the whole time! I appreciated the ending that gave me a sense of closure -- not all flash fiction are good with that, mine included! Great read. :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Nice slow reveal. Great flash fiction. Denise

    ReplyDelete
  32. Quite nice. I like the brevity of the sentences. Great voice.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Well done but horrible. Too easy to imagine.

    ReplyDelete
  34. This was great! Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  35. Loved this Michael! I read it earlier today, but wasn't able to easily comment. As it moved along, I was thinking getting in was a bad thing. The twist at the end was a great payoff.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Love it! I think you did a really good job of revealing some information but concealing other stuff. It has me really intrigued, and I like that it's kind of open-ended as to specifics.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I was lost in the begining when the door swung open and nothing led me to believe there was another door in front of that since the wording was re-opened... That begining threw me off. The idea is neat and I like the sci-fi elements and every sci-fi needs a little girl holding a stuffed animal in fear... though I would have prefered the girl be more creepier to add to the excitement of the mood. Welcome to the challenge!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks for all of the comments! I looked this morning and there are over 250 responses to the challenge. WOW!

    Rachel has created something really cool here for all of us to play/work with.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I like that not a word is wasted. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Excellent work Micheal. Love the suspense I am going straight over to vote for you...Awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Very intriguing! Nicely written. thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  42. I like how I could follow the scene, yet I didn't know exactly what was going on until the end. Nicely done!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I like the sci-fi take on the prompt, and this is something I could easily see being expanded into a longer work.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Good atmosphere and suspense, sufficient technical description, with a fully explanatory, satisfying conclusion.Nicely done, Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to comment on this story.

    @Jocelyn, I get comments like that a *lot* about my stories. I try to keep them in mind any time I get concerned about trying my hand at novel-length fiction during NaNoWriMo.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Love your science fiction angle to the challenge...

    Would like to invite you and your readers to take a look at The Rule of Three Blogfest ---a month-long extravaganza in the fictional town of Renaissance this October, with some great prizes, comment love, and of course, a lot of exposure for your writing.

    Renaissance is a strange town, and a science fiction story would find a good home there! Check it out :)

    ReplyDelete
  47. Damyanti, thanks for your reply! I took a quick look at the Blogfest tonight. I will definitely give that some consideration. Looks like it could be a lot of fun!

    I appreciate you stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    ReplyDelete
  48. When I first read, "The Chamber", I thought about Harry Potter, then I thought about that movie with Michael Douglas, lol. You completely threw me in a good way with a Sci-fi piece! But I'm left wondering about Josef. Does he make it through?

    ReplyDelete
  49. Very good job! I really got involved in it.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Isis, yes, I was hoping to convey that with the dialogue about the "remote" which, presumably, Josef could use to activate the control panel after stepping into the chamber himself.

    Catherine, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Very interesting- I wasn't sure if they were saving people or not at first.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Deliciously suspenseful - the little girl with the stuffed animal evoked fear over what was happening to these people, then the excitement of her mother belied that.

    I love how this piece turned out to be so positive - so many entries I've read are dark and creepy, which is great in their element, but I think people tend to forget the power of a scene that makes people cheer and wrenches their emotional muscles in a happy way. Fantastic job!

    I'm a fellow campaigner - I'm not in your groups, but I wanted the fun of getting to know more writers. It's so great to meet you!

    ReplyDelete
  53. Alicia and Brenda, thanks for stopping by and for your comments!

    Alicia, congratulations on your Touchstone/S&S book deal!

    I'm glad, Brenda, that you liked the closing tone of this. Your blog has got a very cool look.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Hi Michael,
    Wow! Really nice job. Great set up. Great suspense. I could feel the weight of what was happening even if it wasn't known until the end. Excellent!
    Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  55. ...wow, I totally thought he was killing them :)

    ReplyDelete
  56. What a fun story! I really liked the little girl and her grandmother--what a brilliant way to contrast humanity with technology. :)

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hello recent comment-writers! :) Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Great job, Michael. Nice mix of dialog and imagery. It's good to hear a sci-fi entry is making it through to the next round :)

    ReplyDelete
  59. Thanks, Scott. Glad that you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  60. You really threw me for a loop with this one. At first I thought gas chamber, then I was caught up in the suspense of their plight. Way to hook the reader. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  61. Thanks for stopping by, Avery and Raven. I'm glad you both liked this story!

    ReplyDelete
  62. Good tension in this! I like science fiction. But it feels like a part of a larger peice.

    ReplyDelete
  63. I was headed in the Nazi direction as well. What a relief at the end...I think!
    Congratulations on being shortlisted; good stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hi, Doreen! I'm glad that you liked the story.

    ReplyDelete