Seattle Writing Prompts: New Year's Eve at Seattle Center

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Welcome 2011, Happy New Year, Seattle Space Needle, red and white blue haze fireworks, Washington, USA

Every year at the stroke of midnight, December 31st, the Space Needle explodes. It's a controlled explosion, and doesn't hurt either the Needle or anybody atop it. It does entertain the huge crowd of people who come to Seattle Center every year to celebrate ringing in the New Year: Seattle's version of Times Square.

One year, it didn't happen. December 13th, 1999, a guy named Ahmed Ressam is on a ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles. He'd already passed through customs, but the way he was acting caught the eye of US Customs inspector Diana Dean, and she decided to have another talk with him. They inspected his car and found bomb-making materials. Ressem fled on foot and got six blocks before they took him down.

Remember that this was before September 11, 2001. Terrorist attacks had happened on American soil, but the only people scared of them were the people in charge of stopping them.

And Seattle Mayor Paul Schell: Although Schell is best known now for being the mayor under the WTO riots, and for being assaulted by Omari Tahir-Garrett, he was considered an establishment city builder. He moved a lot of money around Seattle, helping to grease the wheels to get the new City Hall, the new Library, and the new Opera House built.

He also cancelled the Seattle New Year's Eve millennial celebration. He was called a "schoolmarm" by local artist Carl Smool. Mr. 9/11 himself, Rudy Giuliani, said "I would urge people not to let the psychology of fear infect the way they act, otherwise we have let the terrorist win without anybody striking a blow." Ahem. lol.

But a missing propane truck at the time, and the very real threat from the border crossing, combined with a year where the WTO roiled the police (who were then further demeaned by a death at an overly raucous Mardi Gras celebration) lead Schell to take a bold and unusual step for a mayor: shutting down the big party on the eve of the millennium.

The only party open: a private party at the Space Needle, for those who paid well, far in advance.

Perhaps Schell was acting out of an abundance of caution — there was no known risk that night. But after the attacks on 9/11, everybody looked back a bit differently at the cavalier attitude people had toward security way back when.

The streets of Queen Anne were quiet that night. It makes me wonder about alternate realities. It makes me wonder how many stories that night continued, in spite of the cancelled event....

Today's prompts

It started with the mayor canceling New Year's. They had a huge argument. He started it: "New Year's is ruined," he said, "because of our pansy-assed mayor and his lick-ass council. If this city had any balls they'd just throw the middle finger at terrorists and say 'come bomb us, assholes!'" Her attitude was more one of "there are plenty of parties to be had, and if you let this ruin your millennium, then you are a fool, and why are we even in a relationship?"

If you want them to stay together this night, go to prompt 1. If you want them to separate (and follow her), go to prompt 2.

  1. He picked the party, at his friend's house, in the end. They argued all the way there, all the way inside, and all the way to the kitchen where he did four shots and cracked a beer with his buddies, leaving her to fend for herself. She found a beer herself, and checked out the house. It was a series of rooms with gross carpet and broken furniture, anywhere you might care to sit stained or wet with spilled alcohol. It was worse than a frat house. She went to use the restroom, then thought better of it and went back to the kitchen to beg him to leave. He wasn't in the kitchen. None of his friends would say where he went, but one of them kept looking at the back door. She went to it, looking through the glass, but all was darkness. She flipped on the light, and there, under a naked 100 watt bulb, was her boyfriend making out with some slag. If you want this to turn into a science fiction story, go to prompt 3. If you want this to turn into a horror story, go to prompt 4.

  2. A few calls after leaving his apartment, and she was in a cab to meet up with some friends at a bar downtown. "God, we're so glad you lost him," said one. "He was really an asshole, and not even hot enough to make up for 10% of it." They bought her drinks, and were trying to get her to talk to other men at the bar, including one who looked like a young Jeff Goldblum. They talked, and he said "look, this is crazy, but I've got two tickets to the final hour of the century at the top of the space needle. Do you want to go?" Before answering, her phone rang. She stepped out to take the call from her very apologetic boyfriend who begged her to come back. If she should reunite with her boyfriend, go to prompt 1. If she should go to the Space Needle, go to prompt 5.

  3. "Oh my god, what an asshole" said a voice. She turned to see her, a woman she'd met a few times, who lived in this house with this guys. "Come with me." The roommate took her hand and led her upstairs, where, behind a locked door, was a nicely appointed master suite. "Your room is actually....clean. And normal." — "Oh, yeah, the whole house is usually. I just rent crappy furniture for the parties so my nice stuff doesn't get ruined." The roommate took her through a doorway into another room, where lights blinked in the darkness. The overhead lights came on to reveal walls of computers. "Get your mind off that asshole," the roommate said. "Try this." She held out a band. It was supposed to go around her head, with two spoon-shaped devices that apparently went over her eyes. "If you put this on, it's gonna transport you into another person, at the Space Needle tonight. I've been hacking into their brainwaves all night. Time to crash the richy-rich party, yeah?" — "Uh sure, I guess." She put on the device, and her head felt like a leg that went to sleep and got woken up to pinpricks. Then, suddenly, she was in someone else's head. Go to prompt 5.

  4. She was about to open the door and punch somebody, when the clouds parted and the moon came out. The girl kissing her boyfriend jerked, and fell backward, and she was out of view. A moment later something came up. Her boyfriend recoiled, but a canine snout bit at his face, and tore his nose clean off. Blood splattered the window, and she turned to the room, only to find everybody in it also, now, werewolves. Hungry spittle dangled from sharp canine teeth. Growls and yelps came from all corners. All those drunk assholes, now drunk werewolves! She was trapped — the shewolf on the porch now baying and howling at the moon, the others in the kitchen now coming towards her. She dived for the paper towels, lit the stove and made a torch, waving them back. She managed to get to the living room, and made a break for the door. She had her hand on the knob, when a bite took her heel. She went down, crying out loud, another victim to the werewolf outbreak of 1999 who didn't live to see the millennium. Fini.

  5. There were ten people at the table, and she was sitting next to the host who brought them all together, the young Jeff Goldblum-looking guy. He was paying for the whole thing, apparently, and here she was, his awkward new date. She expected him to be grabby or expect something, but in fact he was funny and charming, and never crossed a boundary with her. She thought about her jerky boyfriend, and leaving him behind seemed like a week ago, not hours. She talked to the host about his job in tech, and he looked right at her when he talked, like he was really interested in her. When the fireworks went off — so loud inside the restaurant! — he sang auld lang syne and laughed. She asked to kiss him. Fireworks. Not a bad way to start a new millennium.