The task was to write a story given the following premise:
You’re on your way to lunch when you walk by a crowd of people staring up toward the sky. You look up and see someone at the top of a building getting ready to jump to his or her death. Quickly you realize you know this person—in fact, it’s someone from work. Something about this moment overtakes, so you rush to the top of the top of the building to save this person’s life
This is what I saw:
I drop my briefcase and the cardboard box I’m carrying. I rush into the lobby, the glossy marble floor, the stainless steel turnstiles, the mahogany security desk, all a blur. I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of purpose, I must get to the roof. The elevators would be useless at this time of day, they are notorious for being packed and slow with people filing in and out for lunch. I must get to the top. I don’t bother swiping my badge at the turnstile. I jump over like a ‘70’s TV policeman sliding across the hood of his car. I reach the door to the stairway before the firm’s rent-a-cop guard can stop me.
It’s only a five story building, ten flights of steps, I know I can run the whole way, I’ve been dutifully training for the company’s 5K at the end of the month; this is barely a workout. I take the steps two at a time, pushing people on their way down into the walls, into the railings, Bill Barista from new accounts gets slammed back into the third floor doorway as I rush past. I’m pulling myself up the rough steel rail as I leap from stair to stair, sliding my hand along it I can feel the heat building in my palm.
I reach the door for roof access and find it closed and locked.., from the inside. I push the release bar and the door doesn’t move, I push again harder, still no movement.
The feeling of dread, of urgency has completely overcome me. My vision’s blurry, my breath hard and fast from the run and the inner urge to get to the roof. I kick at the door to no avail. I begin using my body as a battering ram and smash my shoulder into it over and over again. I can feel my bones bending from the force. I’m holding my left hand in my right and throwing my body against the door.
As I smash through the door, I hear a crack and a stab of pain in my shoulder, something’s snapped but I can’t stop now. I run across the black tar roof, swerving around duct work and metal pipes jutting through the surface. As I turn around the edge of the final red brick wall, I see…, no one. The edge is clear. ‘Am I too late?’
I rush to the edge, and peer over, I see the crowd looking up. Some covering their mouths in horror, some rhythmically chanting something barely decipherable, “Jum.-Jum.-Jump” echoes off the surrounding buildings. I look down and can recognize some of them even from this height. There’s Carl and Tom from my bowling team, Marsha from Human Resources who told me about the layoffs, Todd Thompson whom I had gone to lunch with, next to him I see a man I don’t recognize look up, then suddenly drop the briefcase and box he’s holding and rush towards the building.