Eight Seconds To Sidewalk – Writing Exercise

As I prepared to write about hitting 100-post mark, I stumbled upon this other post from three years ago: Flash Fiction: An exercise in editing. If you’re unfamiliar with the style, the post will give you a quick understanding. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait here.

In the post – which you may or may not have just read – I’d promised to share an example. Now, three years later, here it is. It’s about 550 words and a quick read.

Eight Seconds To Sidewalk – 2009

Tom opened his eyes. He saw the top of the skyscraper falling away from him as he plummeted backwards toward the street below.

He was falling. Falling! He only had a few seconds to figure out why. He wouldn’t have time to be angry. Or regret the things he hadn’t done. He wouldn’t even have time to panic, though somehow he didn’t feel like he could if he wanted to.

He was always logical, figuring things out. His brain told him to sort this out. He needed to know why this was happening. It mattered. For some reason, it mattered. And it was mattered that he knew who was responsible.

The top of the familiar building was nearly out of sight. He knew it well. The Mackenzie Building. One of the tallest in the city. He was often up there to think. To clear his thoughts. He loved the view. It filled him with a sense of power. And someone had thrown him from the top. Why? Who would want him dead?

His former boss, maybe. Tom had exposed their activities to the SEC, something that assuredly meant jail time for both of them. Maybe others. But no one else would have known about this already. Jack had fired him. Disgraced him. Had security drag him from the building. Jack was powerful and well-connected. And a vengeful son of a bitch.

Tom’s wife hadn’t understood. He’d tried to explain. She hadn’t even heard a word he’d said. She just kept yelling. Screaming. She knew about the affair. Her best friend. She kept repeating that. Over and over. She was vengeful, too. Her clever lawyer had frozen him out of their bank accounts. All of them. She had gloated about that. Then she kicked him out of the house he had bought for her. One of her father’s bodyguards had ensured he’d left. Tom didn’t even like the place.

He now wondered if she would stop at the money and the house. Her father was a dangerous man. He had never liked Tom. Would she have called her father for further retribution?

Tom’s mind went blank. His tie fluttered above him, like a red pennant tethered to his neck. His lucky tie. It was the one he always wore with his favorite suit. It was expensive, like all his suits. It was all he had left. It was the one his tailor said he should be buried in.

He was going to die. The thought hadn’t really occurred to him till now.

His mind went into overdrive, all his senses hyper-aware, needing to experience everything before the end. He heard horns mixed with the general noise of the street below him. He smelled the harbor from several blocks away. Tasted the pollution in the air. The sun was dazzlingly bright, making every color a vivid explosion that his eyes couldn’t fully drink in.

And then he had clarity. He hadn’t been knocked out. He had passed out. Seemingly, for a few heartbeats as fear gripped him.

He’d lost his job. He was probably going to jail. His wife was leaving him. He had no money.

The ground raced upwards, filling his vision. Tom then remembered who had thrown him from the rooftop. Just like that, it hit him.

silhouette of falling man

Reading this again for the first time in probably 10 years, I still enjoyed it, short as it is. My favorite part is the ending – a few readers told me it took them a second to realize the double meaning in the last sentence, which is gratifying.

I remember not knowing where this one was going. Well, I mean, obviously I knew what would happen to Tom. But I didn’t know what pieces of his life would flash before his eyes. That was an interesting study in character development, especially after I did the math to calculate the amount of time it would take him to fall.

As I mentioned in that previous flash fiction post, the most challenging part was managing the word count, though this helped me develop valuable editing tools for myself. If for no other reason, this is why writing regularly is important: it helps you hone your craft.

Good luck with your writing!


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, December 2019


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