I just skimmed over this after writing it and I thought, ugh, I seem to have this thing for people getting turned into statues. It’s not even a conscious thing. This was written with a character in mind. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t really reflect the lesson, it does fulfil the assignment–to do something selfless and detrimental to self. Those are not automatic pairs nor are they mutually exclusive.
Another piece with very little description, but it’s only about 400 words.
It would never hold.
Jayanti crouched low to the pavement, her back pressing into the jagged stone of the carved pillar. She dug her fingers into her temples. No amount of physical effort could aid telekinetic endeavour. But it was a habit that everyone developed.
With her eyes squeezed shut, she could only imagine the scene playing out before her. Eric stood at the vanguard, his neck muscles bulging as he exerted all of his psy-energy to keeping the ceiling intact and above them. Shelly would be right behind him. Weaker and on her knees, but just as determined.
A loud crack startled Jayanti into opening her eyes. She felt her concentration slip, but quickly redoubled her efforts. The ceiling had issued an indifferent threat. Wide, crooked lines travelled through it.
A hysterical laugh caught in her throat, nearly choking her. It was like a Chuck Jones cartoon. Any second, a sarcastic rabbit would burst into view.
“We can’t hold it!” Eric shouted.
They all knew that. Imen had already run for the exit, but he had yet to leave.
Jayanti tried not to wonder who he was sticking around for. She swiped at the sweat beading on her forehead. “You guys get out of here!” she shouted, her voice barely audible over the rumbling cracks above them.
“We won’t leave you!”
“You have to…”
Her knees popped as she jumped to her feet. Shelly stood up as well, but she staggered immediately. Eric grabbed her arm, then shot a pained look at Jayanti.
They couldn’t hold it, not together or alone. But Jayanti could stop it for ten seconds. Long enough for the rest of them to run to safety.
Death didn’t frighten her. Death was not what would await her.
She ran to the centre of the room, ignoring Imen’s astonished cries, and held up her hands. Time stopped for Jayanti and the collapsing room.
Her friends ran. She didn’t see them, but in her last split second of consciousness, she had to believe that she had saved them. She had to believe that Eric had carried Shelly out into the garden, the Imen had led the way.
Ten seconds later, Jayanti still stood in the centre of the room. Stone and powder surrounded her in a broken semicircle of destruction. Her skin and hair, no longer soft and dark, shone a bright, translucent rainbow of blue. Her arms remained as they had been, raised as if in supplication.
She would not lower them again for fifty years.