#FridayFlash: Long Story

Long Story

by Tony Noland

Scooter threw the bundle out the window, watched it disappear into the night. He tried to listen for the thud, but the whipping wind was too loud. How far? Dammit, how far? He pulled on his end, trying to feel if it was slapping against the ground below. Between the weight of the tape and the wind, he couldn't tell.

Ten rolls of cheap duct tape, each brand new, thank God. Each roll was two inches by 60 yards. He didn't think he lost much length when he twisted the tape all together to make this rope.

The pounding on the door was getting louder. There were more of them out there now. The wood was holding so far, but if they started to pound in a rhythm, the broom handles would break under the strain. He wished he'd thought to use some of the tape to wrap them into a single rod; it would surely have been stronger than four individual broom handles.

Too late for that now, though. He didn't dare take them out of the barricade to re-secure it.

He looked out the window again. How far?

He had about 180 feet of improvised rope, minus what it took to tie it to the drain pipe in the corner and to cross the room. The supply room was about fifteen feet long from the pipe to the window. He was on the 14th floor. If a story was ten feet, he was 140 feet up. That meant a short drop at the end of the rope, but nothing serious. If this building used long stories, though, each one was fifteen feet, and he was more than 200 feet up. A drop of 40 feet was too much. Way too much.

Fists slammed into the door, beginning to merge into a coherent thudding, dead flesh pounding at the yellow pine.

He lifted himself out the window, holding onto the sticky mass of the twisted strands. The wind cut at his arms as he eased himself out.

Eleven years ago, his car broke down out on Route 41. In a stroke of luck, his brother-in-law Marshall drove by after only a half-hour. Neither of them had a tow rope, but Marshall had a roll of duct tape, the same cheap stuff Scooter found in that box on the bottom shelf. Marshall swore he could do anything with duct tape, and in ten minutes he'd twisted up a piece of tape-rope, eighteen feet long. They'd tied the cars together and started off slow.

The tape-rope lasted less than a minute, snapped with the first hard jerk. It had been eighteen strands thick.

Boom, boom, boom - the door shook with each crashing blow of all those fists.

I weigh a lot less than a car, Scooter said to himself, eyes closed. I weigh a lot less than a car.


He opened his eyes and lowered himself out. Hand over sticky hand, he moved down into the darkness.

Don't look down. Don't look down. Just don't look down. Don't look down.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Very nice. Duct tape to the rescue again. I'm impressed he was able to do math in his head. When I panic I have trouble counting my fingers. *L*

    Too bad the rest was a "long story," I'm achingly curious as to the preceding events.

    Nicely done, and magnetic as ever. You always deliver, Tony.

  2. Yeah, a duct tape story! As much faith as people put in it, I think I'd take my chances with the angry people rather than the pavement. Of course...how angry are they??? Nice suspense.

  3. Thing is in gym class at school, I could never climb up the ropes. At scouts, I always failed my knots proficiency tests. So in this situation, I'd be right royally screwed. I think I'd just have to take my punishment from the other side of the door...

    Marc Nash

  4. That's a VERY good idea. If duct tape can withhold the pressure from holes in pipes then I'm sure it can hold his weight, especially due to its woven construction.

    Nice story!

  5. The repetition towards the end reminded me of a story you wrote a long time ago. I believe the main character had survived a construction accident, but he was seriously injured and willing himself to get to safety. It's funny to compare that memory and this tale, which is in itself humorous. You're solving yet another problem with duct tape!

  6. @John: Maybe I'm betraying too much of my own thought processes. When under severe stress, I make myself focus on single aspects of the task at hand. Don't solve the whole problem, just work on the next step, then the next one, then the next one.

    In this case, he needs to get down. That's enough to think about at the moment.

  7. Duct tape is awesome. I once saw a mate of mine taped to a tree. Two feet from the ground. In Australia we call it gaffer tape and like The Force, it holds the universe together.
    A tight and tense story. Fantastic as always, Tony. You are remarkably consistent in awesomeness.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  8. @Adam: your comment about gaffer tape made me confirm that little nugget. For my various home improvement & DIY projects, I've got eight different kinds of tape and at least seven different kinds of glue. Different tackiness, adhesive strengths, set-up times, ease of removal, etc. Technical distinctions that matter only to a wonk. I didn't mean to be a nitwit about it on Twitter.

    Thanks for your kind words. I do try to hit the mark.

  9. And now I'm wondering if he escapes, will he then go on to make a duct tape wallet? Foolosh question though... I'm sure he already has.

    Great story!

  10. First off, great title for a flash. Apropos to the tale, of course, too. Second, great story! Very tense. Well written. I enjoyed it.

  11. Given the title and his speculation on whether the building had long stories or not, I kind of expected him to end with a splat... but I'm glad he didn't. (Or did he?)

  12. In my assessment, I'd rather take my chances with any amount of duct tape than with the creatures on the other side of the door. Contrary to shannon's speculation, I'm thinking it would mean joining the undead... "Fists slammed into the door, beginning to merge into a coherent thudding, dead flesh pounding at the yellow pine."

    Great story, Tony - nice pacing, tension and bonus points for creative usage of duct tape :-)

  13. Quite a thrilling tale. And with the magic of duct tape! I wonder if he made it...

  14. So much story left unsaid:
    are they alive or are they dead?
    will the duct tape bend or break, so our hero makes his grand escape?

    Pretty lame poem, but the story -- au contraire! Lots of good suspense. peace...

  15. Love the open ending in conjunction with the title!

    I vote splat.

  16. Duct tape does it all. Fun story, good tension. Sometimes an open ending is the right ending. This one feels right to me.

    Did you see the Myth Buster episode on duct tape? They lifted a car and made a sail boat.

  17. Tony ... love the way your mind works, brother.

  18. From the title I doubt he made it. Too bad he didn't work for the Army. When I did we had an endless supply of 100 Mile tape (meant to hold up under 100 mile per hour winds) - it's stronger than duct tape. Once saw a private taped to the ceiling of the barracks with it. LOL!

  19. Love the story and the way it's written. No question, cool work.

    But I'm confused about the math. Ten rolls, each one 180 feet. No mention that I found that he'd layered all ten together to make a single thick roll 180 feet long, right? So if the rope is a single layer, it's 1800 feet long. What have I missed?

    Still, fine work. Cheers mate.

  20. Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

    @vandamir: that sounds like the kind of thing I MIGHT trust my life to, but the cheap stuff Scooter found? Only under the direst of circumstances.

    @Mike: Thanks for the comment. No, one strand of duct tape wouldn't hold up a man. He slipped all ten rolls onto a broom handle and stuck it up among the ceiling tiles. As the ten rolls unwound simultaneously, he twisted all ten strands together to make one thick rope.


Thank you for leaving a comment. The staff at Landless will treat it with the same care that we would bestow on a newly hatched chick. By the way, no pressure or anything, but have you ever considered subscribing to Landless via RSS?