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Eleanor 7.0

A Melanie Black Short Story

· Short Stories by Melanie Black

“Eleanor, did you get the shot yet?” 

The voice collided with her eardrums like a semi desecrating the side of a Mini Cooper. Eleanor physically leapt into the air; she’d been stuck in her own imagination for the past twenty minutes.  

They had sent her and a crew of news writers and other photographers out on assignment to cover the damage from the recent 7.0 earthquake in San Francisco. They had been grouped and separated into differing location assignments- hers was the old Sweet Valley Hotel; nothing special even when it was brand new, but that’s not what she was out there to judge. She wasn’t there to judge anything. She was merely supposed to soak in and capture the power of the storm and, in the endgame, convince leaders at both the state and federal level to help with disaster relief. It was no new song and dance here- well, notuntil she came upon that hallway. The one that was calling to her from the third floor even when she was down in the basement of the old, groggy, semi-collapsing building.  

To be fair, she’d been warned that being down there wasn’t something she should feel comfortable sharing with Osha or the sorts. But she was a chance taker, a thrill-seeker… if she weren’t, there’d be no way she could handle the level of pure destruction and devastation she witnessed on the regular. No longer being able to deny the force that was pulling her towards the staircase, she climbed at an uncontrollable pace. There was this sense of urgency that overtook her… the quake had scarred the area less than twenty-four hours ago, but the unexplainable sense that she needed to run made her feel as if it was happening at that very moment.  

Subconsciously, she’d passed the first and second floors. When she reached the third, her feet dashed out from underneath her, setting her in a spin. Before she knew it, she was standing smack dab in the middle of the floor’s hallway. The emergency lights were still dimly lit and a maid’s cart was ominously parked towards the right sided bedrooms… obviously someone had been in the middle of cleaning when the quake shook its way through the building. Just a hiccup in its path of destruction.  

“Not yet. I just got to the third floor,” she yelled back. “Looks promising up here… pretty post-apocalyptic.” Her voice strained to be heard through the layers of pressboard, cracked drywall, and cheap décor that had tumbled out of place.  

Her eyes returned to the parked cart; she wondered if it had been parked there from the start, or if it had been moved against its will. Something moved ever-so-slightly in the bottom of the attached linen bag. Something small and thin was now poking, almost unnoticeably so, from the side of it. Then there was a jostle… Eleanor blinked her eyes hard, trying to steady them. Surprising herself, she started moving towards the bag with no hesitation. It was as if she were a spectator watching her body operate and react in ways outside of her control. She saw her hand reach out to touch the side of the bag. Nothing, just lumpy sheets and probably old towels stuffed down in there. She started to turn away when she heard an audible groan. Her hands went back on autopilot and started flinging piles of laundry off the top. Hair.Human hair. A brunette bun started surfacing to the top. Her arms sunk down further into the girthy filth; she felt like she was being sucked in herself. 

She pulled and tugged, and tugged and pulled until a pale white face connected to the bunned head appeared. Eleanor immediately placed her finger underneath the woman’s nose and felt the heat of her breath escaping. This woman was alive. She had discovered a survivor, one that had somehow been missed.    

“Hello ma’am, my name is Eleanor. I am here to help you; everything is going to be ok. Is there any way you can you respond to let me know you can hear me?” 

The stranger didn’t speak but instead opened one eyelid in response to the mysterious voice interrupting her once comatose brainwaves. Eleanor couldn’t believe this. Her fingers magically still worked as she dialed 911, asking, no pleading, for help.  

In saving this woman, she had saved herself. This was the day that changed everything for Eleanor–she left photography in the dust and started school to be a first responder. Her natural instincts and empathic tendencies guided her. She never doubted herself again.