Thin Air

The following is a short fiction piece I came up with for a contest at The Clarity of Night. Our assignment was to craft a story of less than 250 words based on this picture, titled “Ascension”. My homey at The Struggling Writer has an entry there as well. Enjoy . . .

Thin Air

“Can we ride it again, Pappy?”

His expectant plea sounded a cavernous echo inside the hood of the woman’s teal Atmosuit.  Through the tinted visor she gave the child a wink and then returned her gaze to the dawning horizon.

In the distance rose the Downtown dome, a bulbous skyline nestled like a skull in a desert plateau.  The Helibus glided over smaller domes directly below, thriving hives of humanity dotting the shores of the arid Minnesota riverbed, once a verdant topography, now bathed in shades of honey gold by a mustard yellow sun.

The child gripped her hand tightly as they docked at the main entrance of the Mall of America and alighted upon a conveyor leading into the airlock bay.  Quickly stowing their Atmosuits, they donned blue jeans and cotton sweatshirts smelling of manufactured lilacs and industrialized country breezes, then ran past the guard, bound for the escalator.

It rose before them, an ancient three-story staircase of motion and steel.  Airlifts were the thing nowadays, but these relics remained, awaiting the arrival of those nostalgic for the days of old.  On this floor children played with Legos, an homage to the creative spirit of their ancestors.  At the top awaited Stadium 16 where classics such as The Sound of Music, or 3D, CGI nature retrospectives ran on the hour and visitors could witness a world uncluttered and alive, before the air turned thin.


She and the child turned their gaze downward and stepped slowly and deliberately aboard.


12 thoughts on “Thin Air

  1. I had considered making it the Mall of America Museum. As though the mall really didn’t survive but instead stood as a relic of days gone by. I used to live close enough to see the MOA from my balcony. Watched it being built. And there really is a massive Lego store and a stadium-seating theater at the top and bottom of the coolest escalator in the world.

    Glad you liked the piece . . .

  2. I’m considering expanding on this story. 250 words is a bit too compact for someone as wordy as me. And there are so many things I left out. I have a page full of ideas . . .

    It feels good to pause and write again . . .

  3. what a trip!

    the next time i see an escalator i will probably think of this story.

    i also want to say
    that i have never been to a mega chruch…
    did it have an escalator?

  4. “Airlifts were the thing nowadays”

    I hate this sentence. It’s tense is all wrong . . .

    And, no, the mega-church did not have an escalator. That I found anyway . . .

  5. Brian, I just started Life of Pi. Haven’t had too much chance to read it though, as I’ve been working on my MBA homework and I’m now in Lafayette for the weekend. I really like this short story, while I mostly agree about the sentence you dislike, I’m not sure there is much else you could say there. Here are a couple youtube videos from my favorites I thought you might appreciate.

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