The Alarm by Stephen Hastings-King

Rain pours through the suspended ceiling and the building’s fire alarm sounds repeated bursts of loud abrasive distortion 1 2 3.

In the pulse of red strobe lights, a large fireman who had moments before been sound asleep stands in the middle of the room. He holds a waterlogged ceiling panel. In the center of the panel is the alarm. Two bright blue wires run from the box and disappear overhead.

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He has been looking at the configuration for some time. Around him, six other firemen have arranged themselves in postures that reference the gallery in a painting of a public dissection. The allusion is complicated by heavy raincoats, enormous boots and fire helmets, red strobe lights and recurrent alarm sounds.

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The large sleepy fireman says: We do not touch alarms. Does anyone know the code?

Here follows an awkward silence.

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What are we going to do now?
We could spend the night ignoring this alarm.
But what if the building catches fire?

Here follows another silence.

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We’d be liable.

Some look at the rain pouring through the ceiling. Others at the growing puddle on the floor.

You shouldn’t have said that out loud.

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8 responses to “The Alarm by Stephen Hastings-King

  1. guy

    I like the playing off of verisimilitude in the comparison to the Rembrandt painting. It’s only sorta like that you say. I like that move. On top of that, it’s a reference to a painting, and not reality. It’s a bit like Pasolini’s use of Carvaggio in the Matthew movie (which is sort of more about the painting than the gospel).

    • stephen

      nice. thanks, comrade. it’s nice when the procedures that shape one of these pieces is evident, i think. except the pasolini, which i didnt think of but which i like better than anything i did think of so i’m stealing it. i mean if anyone asks. which wont happen.

      • Kelly

        are you sure? hehe. I liked the allusion too, this tied it together for me, the memorialization of a moment in all its later ambiguity

  2. The scenario of the story is neat in itself, but the image you’ve drawn here of the men and the problem is just wonderful.

  3. great structure, perfect for the story. peace…

  4. Hey…isn’t this like Pasolini’s use of Carvaggio in the Matthew movie?

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. What a do enjoy and admire about your work every week, Stephen, is how fresh and unusual your take on the theme is. I like the repetition and use of numbers, and the metaphors. The multiple layers of reveal.

  5. Pingback: Week #39 – Password | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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