I wrote this little random bit of nothingness for a short-short-story contest a year or so ago. The point was just to create a character and something of a story in less than 500 words. Incidentally, I didn't win.
As a janitor, he was a man of little consequence, a man who went unnoticed. His name was Carson, and he had too many keys. Way too many keys.
Beneath it all, however, his name wasn’t Carson, and he didn’t work scrubbing floors at the West Sheldon Methodist Church, as his custodial status asserted. He lived two lives—but for all anyone knew, he may as well have been living three or four. Deception was the name of his game; it was the only way to keep a top-secret government research project hidden.
On that rainy Tuesday morning, however, his life as a janitor became something of the past, and his alternate occupation took on a new significance. He woke to the sound of rain pattering on the window and the telephone ringing in the kitchen. That was unusual; the lab rarely ever tried to contact him at home.
He knew the call was important—it had better be important, at that hour of the morning—but he wasn’t ready to wake up yet. Not ready at all. And the phone was in the kitchen.
He dragged himself out of bed and stumbled in the dark to the kitchen door, the phone screaming at him all the while. He swiped at the light switch, wincing as the ceiling fluorescents sputtered to life, and then searched the room for the cordless receiver. Turned out it was buried in a pile of TV guides and gamers’ magazines. What a mess.
He hit the talk button. “Hello?”
The voice that came back was shaky, breathless, muffled with static. “Carson? Is—is that you?”
It was Dari, he realized—Dari Montana, one of the reserve engineers. She shouldn’t have been at the lab so early, unless—unless something was wrong—
The static on the line was building. Carson raised his voice to be heard over the tumult. “What’s going on?”
She sounded panicked. “I—I don’t know what to do! One of the physicists did something late last night, and they called me in but—it’s out of control, Carson! You’ve got to get over here, now!”
Carson’s mind was numb. Too early in the morning for this. “Slow down, Dari. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t even know! It’s the first vessel; something shifted the pattern. I don’t know what they did, but you’ve got to get over here now or we’re—”
The phone went dead with a burst of static that trailed to silence. Nothing but the rain dripping past the window. Carson stared at the wall, motionless. The first vessel; something had gone wrong with the launch, the pattern was out of alignment. But what could he do? He was, after all, just a janitor—
He tossed the receiver onto the counter and dashed back into his bedroom. He grabbed a jacket, a ring of keys, realized they were the wrong set, tossed them back, grabbed another. Totally unprepared. He didn’t know what to do.
What a mess. He hurried past the magazines and out the front door.
You have talent. I really like the foundation of this story. One suggestion: Listen to the character. Does he have a sense of humor about this very serious but hopelessly ridiculous double life he lives... You have a lot of ability... listen to the lead character. Just a suggestion. Look forward to reding more.