Downtown sidewalks in disbelief littered her stare with a snowfall of shattered glass. Last night's clouds had finally broken — for good. The closeted morning heat was just coming out, shimmering the laddered streets into a Florida nativity scene; snow flung out by believers bereft of earthly anchor. Only a slight breeze stirred fumes and sulfur in steam up from the crunched wreckage, against an overturned police cruiser's lonely remaining tire desperately spinning smoke to the rhythm of a looping APB. Others were emerging slowly but exponentially. They came from cars, basement stairways, dumpsters, subway entrances and exits. Everyone meanwhile clung to something, holding steady while the ground beneath shifted and dug brokenly into the soles of their work shoes and high heels. Trained eyes tried to discern who could be said to have won something, when what they had heard all night was everyone losing everything.
Eyes angled upward, first from aversion, second from hope, third to focus the sound of rotors descending. With no clouds left, she could easily see the copters. Everything had settled so heavily that all movement sank when they came down. She knew that something must happen soon, but for now, there was just nothing left. She turned away from the landing and its megaphones, spinning faster and faster, around but not away.
The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first
half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and
pleasant, the second half still balmy and quite pleasant for those who
hadn't heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice
for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time
during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it
but your brain wasn't reacting yet to let you know.
-- Winning sentence, 1986 Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction contest.
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