Keya And Joe

Thanks to several of my friends’ encouragement, I took the next step in serious writing – I joined a Creative Writing course. My first assignment was to write a short story (upto 1000 words) with the following criteria: My character has fallen down a mine shaft and has to rescue herself/himself after two days. The only things he/she has are a mini flashlight, dental floss, a set of keys, a pair of thick socks and some pretzels.

At first I was stymied. I’m not the adventurous type, and would never seek out a mine shaft to fall into. I’m not very physical. Climbing out of the mine was out of the question. So I improvised. Here’s the story, after several edits (thank you Donna and VTK) and critical feedback from my child. Hope you enjoy it!


Keya And Joe

Author: Srilatha Rajagopal

Keya felt the beginnings of a headache as she slowly opened her eyes.  She shook her head to clear her thoughts and tried to remember where she was, then wished she didn’t. The last thing she remembered was going to the Beaver Creek Seven Eleven around the corner from her hotel to get some pretzels on her offshore assignment from India. On her way back she had wandered off down a side road with the abandoned building and peeped in.  Now she was waking up in a dark shaft with rough walls.

She got up slowly, and took a small step. A little pain, but nothing seemed to be broken. She fumbled in her purse which was still attached to her shoulder and took out the flashlight she always carried.  “Time for some exploring, little K,” she said to herself.  She found a bigger “room” that held a cage-like structure with wheels. There was a dangling board that read:  “A good safety record means happiness for all. So keep up the good work, men.  Be Careful.”

She stepped on something and screamed. It was a skull. “Breathe, K, breathe,” she told herself to ward off the rising wave of panic. “Where there is a skull, there should be a body.”  As she flashed the light, she found scribbled on the floor of the shaft, with what seemed like charcoal: “Goodbye, my darling Jill and daughter Megan. Know that I am dying a painless death. Love always, Joe Lovell.” She felt incredibly sad and fought a wave of despair.

She thought of her parents back in India.  She thought of her grandmother who had loved her more than anything in the world and had passed away last year. She wondered if they would ever know what happened to her. She sternly told herself that line of thinking was not going to get her out of this hell. Think positive, she reminded herself. Her headache was starting to get worse and she wanted to sleep. A concussion from the fall? She couldn’t remember if sleep was good or if it made it worse. But didn’t have a choice as sleep overcame her.

She dreamed that she was back in her grandmother’s house and playing with her neighbor’s son, their favorite game of tying strings through a match box to make a radio. Only the string became a snake and the neighbor’s son became her grandmother. She was calling Keya to come eat her favorite lunch, pooris.

She awoke with a start.  Had it been a few hours or just minutes? She felt ravenous. She counted the pretzels (twenty) and ate four, not wanting to get thirsty. She cursed herself for not buying a bottle of water.

She explored the cage some more. It was rusting and looked like it would crumble if she touched it. Nothing useful there. Back to Joe and his scrawled love note.

She wondered what message she would leave for her parents. Mom, I would kill for some pooris right now.  I want to watch the silly old movies you’re always begging me to watch with you. I’m sorry I laughed when you spoke in your broken English to my friends. Appa, wish I had laughed at your silly jokes instead of rolling my eyes.

She stepped on something sharp and metallic, and turned the light on it.

A radio!  Was her grandmother giving her a message? She picked it up and pushed a knob. Dead. She pulled at the antenna. She turned it over and found the damaged battery compartment. Two AA batteries.  The same kind in her flashlight!

Okay, this was going to be tricky. She carefully pulled out the dead batteries, and kept her left fingers in the compartment. Opening her flashlight’s battery compartment with her other hand, she pulled out the batteries and put them in the radio, carefully lining them up one by one, in the blackness. But there was a problem. They kept falling out. Out they went, back into the flashlight.

“What should I do now, Joe?” she asked the skull.  Joe didn’t seem to care. She dumped the contents of her purse on the floor.  A piece of paper, a pair of thick socks, and… dental floss!

“I know you don’t like to floss, but do you want to have your own teeth when you’re 40?” her American dentist had scolded her. “Damn you, Dr. Dentist,” she had thought childishly at the time, but had gotten the floss nevertheless and kept it in her purse. She took it out and tied it around the radio’s battery compartment. She turned the flashlight off, and in the darkness removed the batteries and slid them through the floss into the compartment.  It took about two hours to finally get them positioned right.

She turned the radio’s knob and held her breath. Long seconds went by. Nothing.  She knew exactly how Houston felt as a satellite returned to Earth.  She turned the other knob. It crackled to life. Her ingenuity had worked! All she had to do now was to wait for someone to hear her.

The sliver of opening at the top of the shaft got darker. She guessed she had been at the shaft for a day and a half. She was about to doze off when suddenly, the radio crackled again. Her nightmare ended as quickly as it had begun. She was picked up by the “Eagle One” ham operators a few miles down the road, who called 911. Rescuers were followed by the local radio crew and the Channel 5 news.  The Beaver Creek Times headlines screamed the next day: “Visiting geek saved by ham operators.” There was an uproar in the media about unmarked abandoned mines.

Keya went back to India, carrying the memories of the two days spent with Joe the skull, but her best memory was the light in Megan’s eyes when Keya gave her father’s message to her mother.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vijaya Ramaswami
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 20:57:52

    Good attempt! “found a skull” -Was it Aditya’s advice?



  2. Vijaya Ramaswami
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 00:11:01

    As an afterthought– (not advice, just my opinion). Generally writers keep suspense up their sleeve, take the readers thro’ blind alleys & finally in their last sentence throw the bomb shell that the readers r toppled out of their seats. Whenever I read a story I always think about this last line, but I will not be able to surmise in some cases.
    I think backtracking will be more effective. U could have told about the shaft in the end. The discriptions, thoughts r all very nice. Seeing
    the skull could have been more dramatic. U have written as if Keya has seen a cat! I don’t understand “Megan’s eyes”. How did Joe die? Do the mother & daughter know about his whereabouts?
    U could have shown the irony of the security board in the end.



  3. Kalai Sankar
    Jul 23, 2012 @ 22:03:19

    Very Good Short Story ! I loved it thoroughly ! Keep writing more and more…..Greatest Fame waiting for you in this Field !



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