This week's concept art writing prompt takes us to a real location, inside the creepy bathroom of an abandoned coal mine. It could be the setting for a spooky story—or some other kind of tale entirely. What do you imagine takes place inside this unnerving room?
This photograph, titled "Imprisoned II" is by Abandoned Zone artist Camereon, via Abandoned Porn. Camereon has many, many inspiring urban exploration photographs on his Facebook and deviantART pages, which are most definitely worth a tour. If you can come up with a story based on this photograph, please post it in the comments.
Velma shut off her flashlight and placed it in its holster, letting her eyes adjust to the near dark. She hadn't been thrilled to pull mine duty, and they almost let her off thanks to that incident during the sewer reclamation. But she was determined to prove that she could pull her weight, even if it meant going underground. Kids came into the mines all the time, right? They snuck down here to make out and hide whatever godawful brew they were trying to ferment this month.
At least they had been able to tell Reclamation where the good stuff was, and Velma had to admit to a flutter in her chest when she saw the uniforms suspended from the ceiling. In different circumstances, they would have been a menacing sight, a silent, upside down guard waiting for a trespasser. But fabric was in high demand topside, and these would make for excellent sun-blocking tent material.
Velma climbed onto the bathroom's long communal sink, feeling her soles flex against the lip. She tugged on the pulley cord with one gloved hand, thankful that the miners had used nylon cords instead of metal. The first uniform came down so quickly Velma nearly lost her balance, but caught the coveralls instead. She steadied the cord and leaned back, letting the scent of the fabric flood her nostrils. She'd been trained to detect dozens of types of toxic mold—and she had the prophylactic medication routine to match—but there wasn't even a hint of must. It was as if time had cleaned them. Of course, they'd still be pounded with hot sand and left to bake in the sun once she got them topside.
Velma was already going over the cart requisition in her head when a flood of shadows raced past the corner of her eye, accompanied by a whisper of claws against stone. Velma let out a yelp of surprise and her shoes lost their footing, sending her tumbling back into the sink. She thudded ass-first onto the cold metal, and, after checking that nothing was broken, scolded herself for being so easily startled. The garbage that the kids brought into the mines must have attracted rats. Velma made a mental note to requisition traps; if the mines could provide a steady supply of meat, all the better.
Standing on her toes, she grabbed the lip of the sink and was about to pull herself back up when she heard a faint metallic sound in the distance. Velma sucked in a breath. If water was dripping from the ceiling, there was a good chance that some of the uniforms were ruined beyond repair. She walked the length of the sink's basin, following the sound. When she was practically on top of it, she pulled out her flashlight and shone it at her feet. It lit on a pool of black liquid, disrupted by an arhythmic dripping from above. Slowly, she traced the path of the dripping until her flashlight lit on a bunched up uniform, wrapped tightly with rope and soaked at its base. Suddenly, she hoped that what she was seeing was toxic mold.
Velma scrambled back onto the sink's lip and gingerly loosened the pulley cord. This was so much heavier than the first uniform, and Velma could feel her breakfast rising in her stomach as she let the mess of fabric and liquid rest in the sink. She slid down the side of the sink, careful to position her legs on either side of the object as she landed.
She didn't know the boy's name, but she had seen him before, with the other teenagers who spent their free time digging beets and making wine. His forehead was split, his eyes wide in a way that suggested that he was tired of being surprised. Velma slumped against the side of the sink. None of her phobias had prepared her for this.
James Ryan's story:
It was time for the Newly Rereleased Soul to have a chance to pick what it wanted.
It thought about all the choices it made before; despite the disadvantages it tended to pick being feminine. Something about the perspective appealed to it, both from standpoint and what it could observe from where it ended up. And the option of creation was always strong; even if it did not become an artist every go round, the chance to be a mother was always there.
(A few times before it happened before it was ready, but even the failures and bad luck didn't deter the Newly Rereleased Soul.)
The options before it were as endless as the last few times; the Newly Released Soul had been through the Cloaking so many times, through almost as many iterations as the Universe allowed since the very beginning , that it earned any choice it desired.
The one in the center, the actress who was going to going to get three Oscars and with her second marriage become First Lady; the one three rows over, the photographer whose grandson would cite her an the influence for Collage-o-matic Cinema; the choice two to the right from that one, the farmer's wife who as a widow turned her husband's land into an orphanage that would inspire thousands without hope to become the best damn people they could…
She briefly consider the one hanging just two choices away, as a change of pace; a man born of privilege and handed the keys to the kingdom at only 23, with a succession of trophy wives and mistresses. The Newly Released Soul wondered ever so briefly if being in that position whether any new insights could be granted from being on the other side for a change…
And yet, the Newly Rereleased Soul kept coming back to the options in the forgotten corners, as it had the last few instances. It knew why so many other entities kept away from these; given the choice between working so hard in the Material, which is hard enough to be immersed in as it is, the natural option is to take the path of least resistance.
But the Newly Rereleased Soul had more courage than care, and it kept looking for these hanging at the edges. It learned a few terms for what made it do what it wanted: stoic observance, willing to leave it in the Universe's hands, rifting the way the best jazz does…
And he found her; the chances that she'd be dead by fourteen were pretty high, either from a random shooting or an abusive boyfriend, and if she lived beyond that point she faced few prospects as her bad education and darker skin kept her at the margins of society at large. A life of toil and abuse from beginning to end.
The Newly Rereleased Soul laughed defiantly as he donned her shell and became her, ready to take on the Material yet again…
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
"As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation." - The Prime Directive, Star Trek
Reaching the future was always going to be hard, even for the Sci-Fi fans. Everybody tried their best to acclimatise themselves to the relatively small advances we were making when we started to explore space properly, and everybody was convinced that what us mere mortals had come up with in our fiction was close enough to reality to be taken as fact.
Problem was, the actual intergalactic federation of species we met as we soared beyond our own solar system didn't really think like that.
They figured that any species that could get out of their own system was good enough to join them. We all thought that was pretty strange, but all these different creatures apparently living harmoniously and using such advanced technologies as to appear to be wielding magic?
Why would we question that? Surely any negative effects would be completely out-weighed by all the positives?
But they never think about the "little people" the ones that just want to get by, day-to-day, go to work, do their job, come home, spend time with the family, go to bed.
By the time we reached the edge of our system we were still dependent on fuel sources mined from the planets. All of that changed when we were introduced to the magic of our neighbours.
Almost over night our entire species forced themselves to adapt to the change, out exploring the universe and expanding their horizons, but me? I just wanted to stay in the mines.
Everyone always looks up when they come into the effin' room, as if that's where the important bit is. I wish just once, just one god-damned time, someone would step into the room for the first time and look-not at the rows and rows of eerie, old uniforms hanging from hooks in the suspended metal ceiling or then at the long, spooky wooden benches draped with nightmarish chains throughout the room-but at the effin' floor.
But you don't notice the floor at first. I didn't. No one does. Except that one guy. He was blind. I don't know why they let a blind guy come into a supposedly abandoned coal mine in the first place, but what do I know? I only work security in this dump, and that means Jack.
Not that I think anything's *wrong* with the floor or needs to be looked at. I just get bored. And seeing everyone immeidately look up at the ceiling, point, and get creeped-out looks on their faces got old several months into this gig. And I've been here for almost three years, if you can believe that.
No, the blind guy, he was different. Of course, I know that he couldn't effin' *see* the eerie uniforms or the spooky benches, but the lady who came in with him certainly could. And she was quite a looker. Easy on the eyes, if the guy even *had* eyes, I don't know.
He wore dark sunglasses, and he had a white cane, which he used to tap the floor in front of him before he moved forward. And when she gasped and pointed, he reached out for her wrist-a practiced gesture-and said, "Julie, are you OK?"
She'd gotten a little pale, but he obviously couldn't see that.
"I'm fine. Just a little startled. There's strange clothing hanging from the ceiling. Lots of it. I think it's old miners coveralls."
"Hmm," the blind guy said.
If you're wondering, the reason I could hear and see them so well is that that's my job: sit in the dusty office and watch and listen to the multiple video feeds from the different parts of the mine. I don't know why they had such excellent audio/video gear in an old mine. Something to do with liability and covering their corporate asses was what I was told when I was hired.
"It's not up there, though," the blind guy said.
"What's not up there?" asked Julie.
"The strangeness," said the blind guy. "It's in the floor."
I thought she'd laugh, that he was joking with her. Did I say that she was a looker? A long, tall drink?
But she didn't laugh. She just said, "I want to get out of here now!"
Then the blind guy said something kinda funny. "Your wish, my lady," he said, "is my command." And they left that room very quickly.
And ever since then, I can't help it, but I wish someone would look at the floor, just one god-damned time.
Michael Munro's story:
44 days after the Chelyabinsk Meteorite Event of 15 February 2013, the first cases were reported via Russian tabloids. Local infection of human and mammal populations by extraterrestrial extremophiles - bacterial spores - had reached epidemic proportions by March 27th.
Symptom cluster 1: Halitosis, photophobia
Symptom cluster 2: an as-yet-unidentified condition resembling trichothiodystrophy, violent paranoia, abnormal swelling of the adrenal glands
The infected then lapse into coma, followed by death (33% of reported cases) or metamorphosis (77% of reported cases)
Regardless of original species, the Transformed are carnivorous predators. They can exhale a miasmic toxin, stupefying to mammals. They form clusters (colloquially котлы, "cauldrons") whose collective behavior resembles that of the marabunta, or "army ant". Individual members display subhuman intelligence but metahuman levels of muscular strength, resilience and agility. Fatally vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation within the 10 nm to 400 nm spectrum, they are nocturnal and invariably cloak their bodies in layers of protective material; wool, cotton and plastic sheets, tarpaulins and oilskins have all been observed.
The Transformed become completely inert during the hours of daylight and colonize subterranean chambers. Since April 12th, 2013, 34 of these nesting sites have been acknowledged by the Russian authorities.
Ben tried not to look up as he sat on the cold, hard bench and waited. About a minute before the scheduled start time, almost all of the benches in the spacious chamber were full, citizens shifting nervously in their assigned places.
"Welcome, citizens," a voice intoned, "to jury duty! Before we begin, is there anyone who thinks they may be unable to serve?"
Near the back, a woman's hand tentatively rose. Immediately, the ghostly black form over her, one of hundreds hanging from the ceiling, snatched her and carried her back up. Seconds later, her screams ended.