This is the 135th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Voice on the End of the World, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 14th April 2013
Word count: 632
“All you have to do is crawl inside and pull the wire,” the voice over the wireless headset said.
“I’m not going to survive am I?” Carol asked.
“Its already too late. I’m sorry, we didn’t know it would be uncovered,” the voice said soberly.
“I liked you better when you were flirty,” Carol said, “This will save everyone else though?”
“We think so, it will at least stop it spreading,” the man on the other end of the call said, “If there were any other way… If there was any way at all to save you, I would make sure it was done, even if I had to hop in a helicopter and do it myself.”
“Thank you,” Carol said.
“When you go in,” the man said, and Carol appreciated bringing the conversation back to business, “The cables going to be far in, it’s bright red. Pull with everything you’ve got until it comes loose. That will stop the reaction and the radiation will begin to subside.”
“What’s it going to be like in there?” Carol asked.
“It’ll be hell, it’s going to be hot, your hands and feet will burn every time they make contact with a surface. You’ll feel your hair melting, and your vision will be impaired.”
“Wish you’d stopped at hell,” Carol said.
“I’m sorry. I will be with you on the phone every single step of the way. I won’t leave you,” the man offered.
“What’s your name?” she didn’t know why she was asking, he was some kind of spook, and he couldn’t tell her – though he didn’t lie and tell her a false one.
“My name’s Michael,” he said, “And Carol it’s been an honour. Your the bravest person I’ve ever met.”
“Okay, I’m going in,” Carol said.
She pulled the latch releasing the cover from the duct, and immediately felt the scorching heat.
“I’ll be with you all the way,” Michael said over the hands free headset.
“Okay,” Carol said, somewhat more meekly than before, then pushing herself forward with all her will she climbed into metal duct. “Ow!” as the hot metal scalded her skin.
“Try to ignore it,” Michael offered, “Concentrate on anything else, don’t think about where you’re putting your body.”
“Son of a bitch,” Carol exclaimed as she picked her way forward, stopping occasionally to cough, the air was so hot she could feel it burning her lungs. “Where are you from?” she asked, as the pain in her hands subsided for a moment.
“Orlando,” Michael said, “Back on Earth. What about you?”
“I was born right here in Alpha Centauri,” Carol said, “Though I was born on a space ship technically. The ship was delayed getting to the colony.”
“I did wonder about the name,” Michael said.
“Yeah, wasn’t easy going to school with a name like Carol Zephyr,” Carol said between gritted teeth.
“Not far to go now Carol Zephyr, you can do this,” Michael urged the woman on.
“I see a cable, it’s blue and red,” Carol said, “Oh God, my skin’s melting.”
“Seperate the cable Carol, hold in there. Helps not far away,” the operator said.
There was a click and a sudden burst of static.
“Carol? Carol? Come on Carol! What’s happened?”
A minute passed, maybe more but silence reigned, then it was shattered.
“I did it,” Carol reported, her voice hoarse.
“Turn around and get out of there now,” Michael said his voice urgent.
“Can’t, I hurt so much,” Carol managed to say. “Oh hell what’s…”
The static returned, and this time didn’t dissipate.
“Carol Zephyr, you were a hero, my hero. The colony owes you more thanks than it can ever express. I owe you more thanks than I’ll ever have chance to give you,” Michael said into the static, “Be at peace.”