Wednesday 3 July 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 114

This week's prompt was a photo taken by Trashhand, a Chicago based photographer. You can find this post on his blog, where it tells us that it is a from an abandoned bank in Gary, Indiana. He also has a website and has a wonderful collection of interesting shots there. 

This story wanted to run away with itself. I had to cut it down and change the POV to get it to work as flash. Another story that I might have to revisit. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Empty State

When the children got off the school bus, and stood on the road, there wasn’t a sound, just the wind blowing the ash about. It was still pretty thick here as no one had bothered to clean it up. The land was unliveable now it had turned sour, having been on the edge of the blast zone of Big Yella, and why Indiana had become one of the empty states.

There were buildings, many of them just rubble, along the main street, but the bank was still intact, and that was what the class was visiting today. It was a fortified building created to house thousands of tiny metal and paper objects people perceived as valuable back then. Although their teacher, Miss Gilbert told them it wasn’t just a perception, they had had value because objects could be exchanged for them (or “bought” as she called it). But over time more and more were needed to get the same objects, so there were problems even before the blast.

The children were given special hats to wear in case of falling debris, and they were led into the bank through a big open room, Miss Gilbert called a “lobby” and then down some stairs at the back to an underground room. The walls were a mixture of the original orange paint and crumbling plaster, no one dared touch, and they gathered in the middle of the room, in front of a huge round iron door that led into what looked like a cage but had wooden slots covering one wall.

‘They called this a “vault” and this is where they locked away all the metal and paper they referred to as “money”,’ Miss Gilbert said.

‘What are those funny little boxes, Miss?’ asked Nancy from the back.

‘They were called “safety deposit boxes”. People would store things in them that were precious to them.’

‘What like pencils or sheets of blank paper?’ Marshall asked.

‘No, Marshal, back then those things weren’t precious, you could get them everywhere; people threw them away in their millions.’ The class drew a collective gasp. ‘No, the things they put in them were jewels, stones set in metals that glittered and were considered to be of value–”

‘Oh my great, great auntie used to talk about those!’ Penny exclaimed. ‘She said they were beautiful, people would wear them, but it became dangerous during the dark days, post-plume, because people would attack each other for them, and they all got broken down to be used for other things.’

‘That’s right, Penny. In the museum we are going to next week you will be able to see the remains of some.’ There were shuffles of excitement. ‘But we haven’t finished here yet. Besides jewels, they put paper items in, too, but not blank paper, they were papers with writing on that related to ownership of buildings and land, and distribution of belongings after death.’

‘What like we still do? My Pa went to a dish-out last week, we got some great tools!’ Jefferson interrupted.

‘No Jefferson, they only left things to their family members or people that were special to them. It was always about the individual then, never the community. They called those paper’s “a Will” because the owner “willed” that those people got those things. People had a lot of things back then, far more than they ever needed, but they didn’t believe in sharing as we do now, they believed in keeping it all and gathering it around themselves.’

‘Sounds cluttered, Miss.’

‘It was, Nancy. They filled their homes with them covering walls and floors. Some of the houses were really small, too. Nothing like the big open meeting houses we all reside in today, but then families lived separately, apart from each other.’

‘I don’t think I would have liked that, Miss.’

‘Me either, Marshall, me either. Anyway, back to the “vault”. You can all step inside and take a look around, but be careful, no touching.’

By the time they had finished looking round and had returned to the bus, they were ready for lunch back at the homestead. These trips were the highlight of their year, one of the few days they got a chance to look outside the living zone and try and understand what life must have been like when there had been billions of people living on the planet. The few pockets of humanity left were considered the only valuable thing now and the collective well-being was paramount. Visiting these places served to remind the new generations of that. 


  1. A Safe Place, by Terry Brewer @Stories2121

    In my line of work you see a lot of things. Sloppy construction. Intricate detail. Marble counters and mahogany doors. I come in at the end of a building’s life. Usually it’s a long life, one often ended as the tide of gentrification approached block-by-block until the “highest and best use” for a piece of property is a fifteen or twenty-five story condo with a rooftop pool and a basement gym. Parking for the Benzes and BMWs and Range Rovers.

    I liked department stores and restaurants. Places where people came and went, bought and ate. The gifts bought for a wife after a forgotten anniversary. Dinners at a restaurant neither could really afford but that would be the setting for a lifetime of memories with the appearance of a surprise ring to a stunned secretary.

    Banks. Banks were my favorite. The detail. The Art Deco walls and columns. The counters with their grates, all assuring customers that their money was safe and in good hands. The railings behind which a bevy of managers and assistant managers and managers-in-training busied themselves. The changed names. Manufacturers Hanover to Chemical to Chase. Old signage of forgotten names stacked in a forgotten storage room.

    The safe. Big, secret objects. The door. Thick door. Beyond thick. How could anyone imagine breaking in, countless heist-movies notwithstanding. Always an inside job. An innocent-looking assistant manager. A teller pining for a young buck who whispered soft things in the alley out back during lunch.

    This was different. I’d been to this branch before. Suddenly I was five or six. With my Mom. She held my hand as she brought me to the railing. Looking over, she said to the woman nearby that she was “looking to have an account opened for this little man.” I probably wore my Sunday best. My Mom wore a nice dress. Black shoes and a coat with a belt and a small hat.

    The woman. I can’t recall anything about her so I’m projecting. She wore a sedate gray suit with a white blouse and had two-inch heels. Her hair in a tight bun. Lipstick probably. And she smiled. She would have smiled as she opened the gate to lead me to a “bank officer who can help you both.”

    My Mom’s hand tightened. I was shy. If I noticed the patterns that crossed the ceiling I don’t recall. I more likely kept my eyes down and was pulled in.

    I don’t know how much money was into “my account.” Enough to open “my account.” I followed the officer and my Mom. He went to one of the tellers. She waved us over. The counter too high for me to see anything but the top of her head. She leaned forward, looking over the counter and down at me.

    “Is this your first account?” She must have said that. To my five- or six-year-old eyes she was very sweet and very pretty. She wore lipstick. I’m sure of it. In retrospect, I wondered if she had a young buck who whispered soft things to her in the alley out back during lunch. No. Not her. She was too clever. No. She’d have worked her way up and probably right now was sitting in a corner office in a midtown building, still very pretty.

    Then she leaned back to do what needed to be done. My mother’s hand tightened and she gave me a light kiss on my hair. I stared at the marble facing of the counter.

    “Young man.” The pretty teller. I looked up at her and she down at me. “Welcome to Manufacturers Hanover”—that may have been the bank—“Here is your passbook.” My Mom nodded. I reached and took the book. “Thank you.” She smiled. My mother smiled. The officer, who was next to us, smiled. For them, the teller and the officer, it was just another day. For me and my Mom it wasn’t.

    I walked with my Mom. My right hand in hers. My left clutching my passbook with its single entry. $5 or whatever. I remember as if it was yesterday, though, that special moment of being my Mom’s only child—I am one of five—and that she was proud of me and I was happy that she was proud of me. I released her hand so she could go through the revolving door first. When I rejoined her on the street, she took me for an ice cream.

    1. A trip down memory lane. Great detail. Thanks for joining.

  2. Memories by @Nadkim (Nadine Kimmage)

    Staring up at the building I once worked in, it is delapidated now, crumbling in places, it's not been touched by humans for years. Oh, the memories of my working days, my glory days you might say. Something or someone catches my attention, turning to my right, 'Jane,' I take a second glance, 'Jane, that you?'
    The woman smiles, 'Jenny,' giving me a hug, 'come explore with me.'
    Together we enter the building and head for the vault. Our footsteps echo down empty hall's and our giggles drift around us.

    At the vault, the safe door lay open and you could smell the musty air, neither of us wished to enter, just in case the door closed on us, entombing us forever. In front of our eyes it shimmered before a clap of thunder startled us both. 'Jenny, it's time for us to go.'
    The urgency in her voice was grave and so, reluctantly, we made our way out.
    Upon exiting the building Jane was nowhere to be seen, 'Jane.' I call her name again and again and again.
    From somewhere deep inside my memories alerts me to the reality - Jane had died quite some years ago when the ceiling caved in on her at her home. Frozen to the spot, dazed and confused, she looked so alive and the same age as me.

    1. This is a really good story, well done.

    2. Gosh,really spooky. I was waiting for something but not that. Great job. Thanks for joining.

    3. Thank you and thank you for the midweek flash xx

  3. Wow, Miranda. You made your story read like the Fallout games. I'm really impressed with the feeling you got into this one, well done.

    1. Thanks. Not a gamer so no idea what that is but yes I had to alter the POV to fit the word count. Worked out ok.

    2. You did great with this, Fallout is about surviving in a world after nuclear disaster. You nailed it perfectly.

  4. Okay, I took far too long to come up with a story for a bank vault. But, I go one, here is my story Falling Into Adventure hope you like it.

    1. I like it. Great humour in it with a touch of suspense.

    2. Thank you for reading, I keep trying to change the energy in na story to challenge myself. I liked this one despite the 4hr is took to find a story.

  5. The Aliens
    By: David Lunn Milburn

    By Tuesday, there were ten leaders left. A day later, it was down to seven. The aliens were everywhere. No quarter asked, none given. They weren’t after prisoners or slaves. This was no less than the utter destruction of humanity, one person at a time if necessary. The children weren’t spared other than to be used as bait to draw the rest of us out.

    The aliens weren’t indestructible, they were made of flesh and blood too, if you could call it that. A good wallop in the head with a baseball bat would do the job. We had run out of ammunition weeks ago so improvisation was a valued skill. We had tried our best to use proper military tactics, decentralized, diversified, turned into guerrilla units. Sun Tzu would have been proud of us. All for nought in the end. There were just too many of them and they did have advanced weaponry.

    Anyway, the caves had always been considered a last-ditch haven.

    The hope was, if they couldn’t get at us, they would eventually focus on stripping Earth of the things they craved and move on. We wouldn’t know what was left until we came out someday in the future. Not a perfect plan but we were cornered so this was it.

    The transfer went smoothly. A few thousand souls had made it through. Those of us fighting the holding action were proud that day. We kept them at bay and all made it safely. We walked the mile of passageways to where the rest were waiting. The seven remaining leaders were noticeably jovial as they came over to welcome us.

    “So, which one of you had the honour of closing the door?”

    The other squad members looked at me, their commander. A deathly silence grew into horrified reality. My wife, who was standing nearby said, “Typical, he never remembered to leave the toilet seat down either!”

    An hour later, the aliens arrived.

    1. Oh no! What a shame! I thought it was a great idea! Reminds of The 100. thanks for joining.

  6. this weeks tale is a little naughty, hope thats ok :)

    Save the day

    1. It wasn't too naughty at all. Nice concept.

      Here's a clickable link for other readers: Save The Day

  7. Hi Miranda,

    Love the image for this week. Here's my efforts, a bit more light-hearted this time.

    1. Great story, I like that kind of ending. Thanks for joining.

      Here's a clickable link for readers: Heist of a Lifetime