Alright, I made the commitment to write more fiction, so here's my second Stub Story.
The random words:
Ellen willed her eyelids half open as her ears sipped, then gulped the noises around her. A constellation of cell phone screens waved over her head and voices clamored over one another:
“Ohmygod is she OK?”
“Did someone call 911?”
“Did you see her fall? Don’t move her! I don’t think you’re supposed to move people when they fall.”
“I bet she broke her back, ohmygod, what if she’s paralyzed?”
“Her eyes are open – are you OK? Ma’am? Can you hear me??”
She tried to focus on any one face – but they just seemed to be floating heads in a cavernous dark.
“She’s making noises! She’s not dead!”
“Dead? Are they talking about me? I’m not dead am I?” Ellen felt herself becoming frantic, but her thoughts were a balloon tethered to her unmoving body. She tried to reel herself in – wiggling fingers and toes. Yes. They moved.
What happened? A voice wailed in the background.
Calliope had insisted on this concert. Begged her for weeks. Said the band had changed her life. And Ellen had laughed, because how big are the revelations of a 14 year old anyway?
“Please mom? Can I go? It’s at a Christian college, in a gym. Nothing bad will happen.”
And seeing graduation looming in just a few years Ellen had relented. Agreeing to the concert but insisting on going with her. This arrangement had not pleased Calliope – who’d spent a week debating on her outfit (a floral-print dress and boots and a cardigan) and emerged from the bathroom that night with bangs she’d just given herself. Ellen couldn’t be upset, because she looked adorable and not scandalous and she realized with each passing choice Calliope made that she was transforming from the minor decisionmaker of her own life to the major. And that was how it would be.
So they went, Ellen, Calliope and her friend Jamie. Ellen promised to remain out of sight so she scaled the bleachers in the back of the gym to the very top and watched as the two girls found a seat on the floor, waiting for the show to begin.
She relaxed watching the young people mingle and smiled at the other parents climbing up the bleachers.
But then the lights went out and the opening chords rang and all at once the benign sea of concertgoers below churned into a storm. Ellen stood, scanning for the girls only to watch them disappear into the swelling depths – swallowed by all those strangers and their hormones and their drugs and their bad intentions.
She was on the tips of her toes searching for her baby in the jowls of the monster, hoping that it would taste her youth and earnestness and spit her right back out.
But instead she found herself reeling through the dark, landing with a searing smack on the gymnasium floor.
Ellen heard Calliope’s bell voice dragging her to consciousness.
“Calli? Calli, honey?”
How did she get there so quickly?
“I’m here mom.” Calli held her hand. She could feel her little girl’s soft touch. “I heard someone scream and I knew it was you. I just knew … it was so weird … I’m here.”
And Ellen smiled and returned to her body and drank in her little girl who could never be eaten alive.