The Last Story
By Tashfia Noor
No one told Liz journalism was going to be hard. It’s not until after she’s fired from her job that she comes face-to-face with a groundbreaking story, but it may be her last.
She glanced at her hands. The polish was chipped to the point where her nails were bare. She couldn’t remember the last time she painted her nails.
A muffled noise rang out.
What if she didn’t pick up the call?
It’s not like they would forget, she sighed.
Phone. Phone. Phone. Where is it? She reached into the crevice between the couch. Had it fallen there?
Her fingers caught upon the ridged lines of glass. It had cracked the year before, but she couldn’t be bothered to fix it.
“Hey!” she answered. Her eyes instantly shut at her overly-perky tone. What is wrong with me?
“Is there anything I can do for you—for the paper?” She asked hesitantly. Get to it.
“It’s just—Listen, you’re a great writer, Liz. I know that, you know that, we all do. Truly,” the male voice paused. She heard a shallow breath, as if he had already become bored with this. With her. “But we got a reputation here. Right? You know that, right?”
“Right. Sir, I promise you, I’ll have a story. These last few days—crazy, let me tel-”
“Listen Lizzy, I’ve gotta go. Take care of yourself. You’re gonna do big things one day. Big things,” he said, ending the call.
“Big things” sounded a lot like living in her friend’s basement. Shit.
It was as if she had lost her hearing, and all she could do was stare.
So she stared.
Hazy circles dotted her vision.
Am I awake? The thought fleetingly passed when she wiggled her fingers.
The room was dark, but she didn’t remember turning off any of the lights. Come to think of it, she didn’t remember going to her room or even getting into bed. Weird.
The phone call from earlier lingered in her mind. Who was he to talk about “reputation.” She swore that she could smell the musk of his greasy, unwashed hair wafting into her apartment over the line, and his tone—if he wrote the same way he talked to her, maybe it wasn’t so bad to be let go.
She reached for the clock on her bedside table. Twisting it to see the time, her hand hit a pen as she brought it closer to her face. Unable to see, she listened as it hit the floor softly.
Her body had already molded itself into the perfect position on her bed.
Maybe I’ll just pick it up in the morning.
She groaned as she pulled herself up and out of bed, grimacing at the sensation of cold wood against her bare feet. It was then when she noticed her curtains. There was nothing wrong with her curtains; they looked the same—striped and dotted—but they were wispy now. They tended to get that way when the lights from outside were abnormally bright. The prospect of having to move out seemed a lot more appealing as she pushed the curtains apart.
It was the complete opposite from her. She couldn’t find the light source, but the parking lot was illuminated by fluorescent light.
Good to know I’m not the only psycho awake.
She peered into the box directly in front of her. It was dimly lit, and for a split second, the faint orange hue reminded her of home—of the worn leather couch and peanut butter cookies. She smiled.
She didn’t realize that she had been staring until a figure appeared. She could make out the silhouette of a man, though not the features of his face. Nostalgia soon morphed into confusion as she squinted.
Her heart dropped. It escaped from her chest and burrowed elsewhere in her body as she could not hear a single beat. It was as if she had lost her hearing, and all she could do was stare.
So she stared.
She watched as the silhouette’s arms lifted something—legs—above the ground, and carried a lifeless, or that was what she assumed, body to a bed in the center of the room.
That was when it set in. Shock. Fear. Nausea. She had never experienced it all at once. After all, it only ever happened in movies, never like this. Never here.
If he sees me…
Her eyes widened at the thought. Not knowing what to do, she ducked. She crawled back into her bed and lifted the curtain just wide enough to see through the corner of the window.
She couldn’t do anything. As much as she wanted to, as much as she knew she should, she couldn’t think. If she went to look for her phone, the lights would illuminate her shadow.
She turned toward her wall. As much as she tried to relax in the void of blue in front of her, her mind drifted.
She would make a plan.
She would do it as soon as she felt safe. She would call the police, investigators, hell, she would call every newspaper branch in town.
She would finally have a story. And a good one at that. Take that, greasy.
A soft, clicking noise distracted her from her thoughts. She turned to see the pen from earlier lying neatly next to the clock.
She froze, her legs going numb.
The inspiration for this story was actually, in part, from a dream I had. We tend to forget most of our dreams, but this one stuck. When brainstorming ideas, I sat down and listed the contents as vividly as I could, and wondered how I could meld other features to create a short story that was more complex than a typical character who was witnessing a murder. This is why a huge chunk of the story gives us a little backstory behind Liz’s circumstances, before delving into the terror that follows. After drafting my initial story, I thought it would be a good addition to insert internal dialogue to highlight the main character’s thought process as the story progressed.
Tashfia Noor is a student and a Girls Write Now Writing Works mentee. She loves to write short stories, and she welcomes inspiration from novels, film, and the world around her. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her family, create and edit videos, and discover new music!
A MONTH IN REVIEW: ABROAD IN COPENHAGENby Joanna Tan