So you want a site of writers to give you around an hour's worth of honest work? My principles say go fuck yourself This shouldn't take too terribly long.
And to think, you had another 666 words to go for the actual story... although, this being the left over amount might have been some symbolic ploy.
Anyway, I'm not sure how attached you are to this story, but might as well try to give my thoughts on it.
Ha ha so meta so funny. But microaggression aside, it isn't a bad idea and site-based stories can be pretty entertaining. The ending is humorous enough that I'll put a disclaimer here that I ain't the best with comedies, but I'll do my best.
The ending is neat (as mentioned), as while it robs us of the half-assed story, it still seems to fit well with the established tone and is basically the twist for this story. The thing also flows pretty well (in my humble opinion), you really juggle dialogue and action well in a way that doesn't detract from either (which can be harder than it seems).
Personally I'm not sure on Mizal's characterization, comes across more so as emotional than threatening, but I could be reading it wrong. However, even if it is meant to be a 'weaker' representation of Mizal, I'd say it still works well for the story being told here. Besides, Bucky isn't a weak character (as I understand) so it can make sense for her to struggle more in a battle with him.
As for Bucky, he comes across as a bit of a Gary Sue, just instead of being clumsy he is a drunkard. Just dispensing wisdom like that, and the fact he only fails for the sake of the story seems more like he was forced to fail than because it made sense for the overpowered character. However I guess a proper Gary Sue would just change the story path to win, so yeah.
Not badly rewritten, but the irony of this getting you out of hell would be a great reason to force you to write a continuation/another story, but even if it let you out it would still be amusing enough. Considering that the writing looks good and that you've got a consistent tone with good pacing, this is pretty great. Would recommend people to read.
This was cool. Reads like the first chapter in something long--are you intending to expand it? (You may not want "You also spot the spotless door below," by the way.)
Damn, that was good. The forced perspective from the binoculars and internal struggle to help was expertly done.
Hmm, very intriguing piece you got here.
Lots of questions arise, but there seems to be enough information to form some idea of what is happening. I have to say that the ending feels inconclusive, like a cliffhanger. What happens next!? However, I can be more lenient on this because it seems to fit with the overall feel of the story, even if it isn't my personal favorite route for an ending to take.
Basically, the story starts and ends with the binoculars, which gives the whole thing a feeling of a more natural conclusion even if it is a cliffhanger, but it almost suggests that what happens next shouldn't matter to the reader, you have seen enough.
For a completely spontaneous thing it fits together well, came across as rather intentional to me.
Yet, it does end up also, perhaps, feeling a bit empty, probably because not much is revealed and the story ends up just ending without too much of a difference in reader knowledge compared to when it started. Maybe I'm not reading into it enough, so I'll phrase it this way: consider adding some on the nose themes or message. Might help in making it more satisfying without necessarily adding more writing.
But do not take this the wrong way, I might just be trying to nitpick to pad this review, because the thing is that you did write something that would totally get you out of hell, and that was the goal, so you've succeeded. Definitely good that the story is actually pretty decent despite my grievances.
I dislike cliffhanger type endings as I imagine part of the point is having a complete story, however this story fits together oddly well despite perhaps being a bit hollow or potentially incomplete, that is to say, it doesn't truly feel that way despite the style of ending.
I'd say it is worth reading, good work on keeping it engaging, and that is a nice creative way to frame the story.
The Legend of Fiona Hawk
You've probably heard of me. I'm that Fiona Hawk, the greatest archer and adventurer in the world, the one who used to be a human.
I used to have quite a reputation as a highly skilled adventurer, a real survivor, starting with my tenure with the Plunder Knights. Those were good times. I had a nice thing going with Colin Strongchest, a barbarian with some pretty mighty thews. I still think about those thews. Unfortunately, the whole party was killed by means of a pillar of fire summoned forth by the evil High Priest Aldrich von Nemesis. One moment I was there chatting away with Quick Maizie, our burglar. That next moment she was ashes. They all were.
Only my lightning reflexes saved me that day, as I leaped off a statue into the rafters and made my escape.
Wait a second, no, that wasn't the Plunder Knights. That was the Band of the Closed Fist who got toasted by Aldrich von Nemesis. The Plunder Knights were the ones who all got picked off by the sinister traps of the Robber Baron Shadowstealth. That place was brutal. Poisoned spike pits after poisoned spike pits. Right. Those were the Plunder Knights, the Closed Fist were the ones in Shadowstealth's den, and the Song of the Moon--I wasn't with them for too long--who all got picked off by those orc snipers in that forest. I barely managed to escape, killing an orc with my trusty magic yew bow, disguising myself in his clothes, mingling with the warband and then leaving at night (and helping myself to a good bit of their loot, too.) So who was it that I was talking to when she turned into ash, then? They all sort of blend together after a while.
My point is that I've led a pretty charmed life. But my luck ran out when I was in my...I want to say--my ninth adventuring party?--we didn't even have a name yet, we were so green. We ran into a bunch of ghouls, and they slaughtered us.
I say that like it was nothing, but it wasn't nothing. It was the defining moment of my life--my death--my life. I think about it. All the time. The dead face pressed up against mine as it held me down, the feeling of my face being bitten off, the urgent thought that I would get out of this somehow, as I had gotten out of so many situations before--and then the certain knowledge that I wouldn't, I wouldn't--and then nothing.
I didn't find myself in the endless sunny forests of my patron goddess. I didn't find myself anywhere at all.
Eventually, my uncle, a reclusive and mysterious shaman, came after me and brought me back. He performed the ritual of reincarnation on us, a particular magic that only the forest shamans know, which grants a new body to a recently dead person. One of my friends was brought back in the body of a boar. One was brought back in the form of a gibbon. One in the form of an eagle. And I was brought back as an elf.
Oh, we tried adventuring together afterwards, but it just wasn't the same. It was awkward when we went to quaff drinks at the local tavern, and quest givers just didn't take us seriously, especially because our most charismatic member was a gibbon. We broke up soon after.
That's when I went solo. After doing a great deal of work for the High Counsel of the elf city Slender Vine. I was accepted into elf society--I fulfilled some prophecy of theirs about the elf not born from elf, and I was a big hero, etc, etc. I slew stuff, I found treasure. I donated artifacts I found to the royal treasury of to make sure they kept me in mind when there was an opening on the Council. You know the story, I'm sure, from "The Ballad of Fiona Hawk." Anyhow, that's when I was made Countess of Misty Tower, a demesne on the outskirts of Slender Vine that I ruled with grace and wisdom for years.
I got married. It was a bad idea. Jahn the Pigeon was a friend of mine from childhood. When we met up again, we fell in love.
"We shouldn't," he whispered. "You...you're going to live for thousands of years. You'll never grow old."
He put his shirt back on.
I took it back off him and put my hand on his arm. I never wanted to get out of that bed.
"We should," I said. And we did. He loved me. He found me distracting, he said, in the best of ways. He would stop reading just to look at me as I did the most mundane of things like brush my hair.
I wanted to be with him. I wanted children. We married, and Little Blake and Whitney, twins, half-elves, were born that year. And then, just sixty years later, Jahn died, as humans do. It was a bad idea. I watched him grow old and he watched me remain young-looking and beautiful, and he grew bitter and angry and he died. Aside from my children, Jahn was the only person I ever loved. It was a bad idea.
I didn't let him go easy. The elf mages were of no help. "It is his time." But there are dark rituals for the right price. I really tried, Jahn. I gave the Horned Necromancer a little piece of my soul. A piece of my soul, he said, was his price, to return Jahn to life. I paid the price. It only stung a little bit as I said the words and I watch his eyes darken--as he drained me. Then he said he would pull Jahn's departing spirit into the violet gem, and Jahn's body sunk into the bed.
But he was a liar and Jahn remained cold, and I had lost something of myself in the process.
I ruled in Misty Tower for a long time and watched my children and grandchildren die, and my line die out.
Centuries. I would have been dead if I had stayed human.
I would have been dead if I hadn't died that day. It's a paradox I think about way too often in the middle of the night when I think about how I dodged mortality, just like I always do. But also how I won't be able to dodge it forever. And I think of the rotting face of that ghoul. Of Jahn's gray dead face. Of the faces of my children, who I had stopped loving willingly as I realized they were not here for long. Of my own face, torn off in that crypt.
It does not matter if they live or die. They are fleeting. Better that they should all go to sleep now.
"Go on, then," I said to my skeletal army, my black robes whipping back in the wind as I watched the shining knights assembled below. "Be sure that they all die as quickly as possible. Take all of their pain away."
Wish there was a criteria so I could pretend to be a professor. Anyway, onto the review, despite probably not really being worth much.
I will not classify this as a cliffhanger ending because the build up is just done too well, and besides, I'd classify it as a twist ending anyway. I will add that it definitely fits better than some twist endings we've seen in the past, that is to say, it really comes across as a natural consequence of everything rather than just being a 'gotcha' moment. I do wonder how much planning went into this, since the flow is solid.
Also the word choice definitely adds to the read, and the consistent tone is a great boon too. Great work!
I will add that the chosen style of looking back and narrating what has happened was worrisome for a second because it can feel like things aren't urgent, however you handled it expertly where you played to the strengths and didn't walk into the traps. It somehow makes the ending feel like more of a punch than it otherwise would (though I am going off by imagination for that comparison).
I do have a question for you now, what is up with the space bars after full-stops? Is it a style thing, is it to help readability? Did you copy paste from somewhere and it was unintentional?
I should mention, this doesn't detract from the experience, but I am curious.
Definitely worth reading, I wonder if I could classify this as a proper comedy-tragedy, or is having a humorous first half and more grim second half just a tragedy with a comedic element? Or was there something about all comedy being tragedy? Anyway, very nice story, comes across as complete thanks to the wonderful execution of the twist ending.
Regarding the double space after a period: that is how you know that I am over forty, because I learned to type on a typewriter, where it was beat into our heads that you double space after a period and a colon.
I touch type pretty fast, but if I don't double space, it messes up the typing rhythm I learned so long ago. Luckily MLA style lists double space after a period as acceptable. Not preferred, but acceptable.
It would be a good murder mystery clue to find a note written by someone that double spaces after periods, and then the detective realizes something about the age of the writer.
“Hey loser. You gonna join us for happy hour or work all night?”
Nick turns from his computer to see Greg and Joe behind him leaning against his cubicle wall. Their wrinkled shirts hang untucked outside of their jeans. The three of them were hired around the same time, but Nick quickly distinguished himself from their casual approach to office work.
“If I finish approving these expense reports maybe,” Nick replies. “You sure it’s smart to go out tonight? The news says it’s supposed to be pretty rowdy outside.”
“Ha ha! You actually listen to that garbage?” Greg replies sticking a toothpick at his teeth, a habit he acquired from his attempt to quit smoking. “If those snowflakes want a fight, I’ll give ‘em one. Like any of those libtards would pick a fight anyway. They’re more likely to sit crying in a corner after their socialist loses the election!”
Joe, the more reasonable of the two chimes in, “Come on, man. You’ve got to take a break at some point. You’ve already put in at least 50 hours this week.”
“You two go on ahead. I’ll catch up with you after this stack,” Nick answers, pointing at the huge pile in his inbox. He turns back around to his computer screens.
“We’ll text you the details. No skipping out this time, pussy.”
One hour later
“This one’s missing a receipt. Who the fuck turns in an expense report without the receipt?” Nick mutters to himself. He finds the bottom right corner with the employee’s signature. Greg. “That fucking idiot can’t do anything right.”
Nick reaches inside his top drawer to grab his REJECTED stamp. The handle of the stamp fits perfectly in his palm as if tailored for his grasp. He jams it into the red ink and tingly sensation shoots up his arm and down his spine. His firm press against the ink pad brings a slight curve to the corner of his lips. In a single motion, Nick stamps the report with a resounding thud to the desk beneath it. He looks down and notices his finger has a small smudge of ink. Unable to control himself, he sticks the finger in his mouth with slight giggle escaping his thin lips.
Just then, he hears glass shattering down the hallway.
Nick slides his rolling chair to peer outside his cubicle, finger still in his mouth. The hallway is dark and empty. The monotone grey carpet leads straight into solid blackness. The company had removed their security light bulbs to save money. The floor manager made sure to reinstall the bulbs whenever an audit drew near. This was not one of those times.
“You better pick that up. The night crew already left,” Nick shouts down the hallway.
“Irresponsible new hires. Can’t do anything right.”
With one kick off the ground, Nick’s swivel chair slides back into position at the desk. Taking a look at his inbox, he sees there is hardly anything left to do.
“Damn it, I should have worked slower. Now I don’t have an excuse for those two retards,” he whispers to himself. Deciding to waste more time, he grabs a plain white mug from his desk and takes it to the kitchen.
The heavily pressurized faucet shoots out splashing Nate’s perfectly ironed dress shirt. Cursing, he grabs a paper towel to dry himself. The sink is full with a variety of silverware and dirty cups, resulting from his coworker’s hurried exits. Grateful of his good fortune, Nick starts to hand wash each dirty plate, knife, and cup.
His eye catches movement in the reflection of the faucet. It was so brief Nick wasn’t sure if his eyes were playing tricks on him. That was a lot of time staring at numbers, he reasons to himself, probably just my sight readjusting. A couple moments later, he notices it again.
“Whoever’s out there, you can stop. I’ll lodge a formal complaint to Human Resources and you’ll be fired for excessive harassment,” Nick warns.
Deciding that it’s best to ignore whatever he thought he saw, Nick heads back to his desk to shut down for the night. If movies have taught me anything, he thinks, it’s that you don’t wander towards strange shadows. He locks his computer and packs up his briefcase. The glint of his letter opener draws his vision. He reaches for it, hesitates, and then stuffs it in the back of his belt. Cautiously, he treads to his car in the underground parking garage.
The garage is empty at this point as the other employees rushed out at 5 o’clock sharp. A single Honda Civic, freshly washed, sits in the first row of painted stripes. The double beep of its unlocking echoes within the concrete walls and the sudden blast from the headlights blind Nick’s vision.
As soon as his senses are assaulted, his briefcase is forcefully torn from his grasp and dark canvas covers his vision. Reactively, his hand grabs the letter opener at this belt and swipes it forward.
“Settle down, Crocodile Dundee.”
Nick pulls the makeshift hood from his head to see Greg standing before him with an idiotic grin. His laugh fills the air with a heavy smell of booze.
“Not funny, man. I could have accidentally hurt you,” Nick says gesturing to the letter opener in his hand.
“Wouldn’t that be something? I seriously doubt you could. Hell if you did, I’d shake your hand for finally growing a pair.”
Ignoring the insult, Nick walks over to his briefcase at Greg’s feet. As he reaches down to grab the handle, Greg kicks it just out of reach. He tries again, but this time Greg punts it across the parking garage.
“Ha ha ha!”
Looking up from his bent over position, Nick flinches as Greg’s laugh splatters him with a few spit droplets. In his powerless state, a word flashes to his mind. Rejected. He stabs the letter opener forward into Greg’s gut and rips it out immediately.
“What the fu–“ Greg manages to voice as he stumbles towards Nick, collapsing at his feet.
Running his fingers over the handle of letter opener, Nick can’t help but think it feels tailored to his grasp. The bloodied point drips red onto his skin. Instinctively, he brings it to his mouth. His lips curve upward as he looks towards the crumpled body before him. With a giggle, as he’s done countless times, he stamps his hand down.
Politically charged content! O:
Decent opening as I'd generally not consider this setting one that I'd find very engaging, but glad to be proven wrong. I'd say the whole story ends up feeling very well constructed and engaging, thanks to a solid tone and pacing/flow. Very nice.
The ending would go into the twist camp, if you ask me, however I like it since it does feel rather conclusive, even if theoretically the story could keep going, but the way you handled it makes it feel like it doesn't have to. This is great as it makes for a satisfying story.
Very nice parallel with that early bit and the ending, I want to call it foreshadowing but I worry I'd be disingenuous (or whatever the opposite of that is called). Very clear imagery for both moments tho, really helps highlight the events and link them in the readers mind.
I will also add that I like the way you handled the less normal elements (yuk ink tastes bad), in that you didn't go into unnecessary detail which undoubtedly contributed to the scene's effectiveness.
Worth reading, has a nice element to the story structure which helps the whole thing fit together well.
Thanks for the review. I was hoping the ending wouldn't be too much of a twist since that's all I wrote for the 50/100 word stories. Working with 1,000 words, I wanted the reader to know the direction the story was taking, but still want to read until the end. Sort of like being on an amusement park ride where you know what's going to happen, but have to experience it for yourself type of thing. I also wanted to display a normal looking person that is actually a sicko inside. Almost like an American Psycho type character.
This is a rewrite of a story I posted a few years back; same concept with the added benefit of better writing. Ain't 1000 words because fuck you.
Sometimes, he contemplates his time in the room.
The walls are all pure white, the decorations pitch black. The sounds of the room are a cacophony of silence, the time spent in it an endless moment. The ebony armchair he sits in is both hard as stone and soft as feathers, as though a pleasant agony. The irony of how contradictory all his thoughts on the room are is not lost on him.
Most of his time here, he's alone. Nothing to keep him company but his own thoughts. Every now and again, however, he finds himself staring at something that takes a seat in the armchair across from him. It's different every time. Once, it was a large bipedal turtle. Another time, it was a midget in a clown costume. There was something resembling an overgrown fetus one time, but he prefers to forget that incident.
The one he remembers most fondly was a woman, whose flowing white dress was a stark contrast to the black leather of the chair she sat in. Her words would come out as a garbled mess of syllables and screeches, but it was okay, because he knew that she didn't know any better. What he would give to hear her voice now.
There's always something out of the corner of his eye, floating around on the walls. When he looks, he's too slow, and the thing is gone. Other times he's too fast, and the thing retreats before he can fully see what it is. What little he can remember of it is forgotten not long after. Maybe he's not supposed to see what it is. Lately he hasn't even tried to catch a glimpse.
After a while, he gave up on trying to understand what this room is. It must be Hell, or Purgatory, or some other form of the afterlife. But it can't be, because he came here of his volition... But why would he come here? What is this place? He doesn't know, or maybe he does know but can't even grasp what it is. He just hopes that he came here for the right reasons. After all, what sort of fool would subject himself to this for nothing?
He blinks, and the room still has not changed.
Ye, was inspired by Twin Peaks. Also, link to the original for you and Ficsean.
I like how in this version you added the mention of the irony of the situation, so you can call this story "Ebony and Irony."
I was torn between replying with 'lol' or 'go to hell' so I'm just gonna reply with both.
lol go to hell
Nice story. Do you have a link to the original?
I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I find the lack of any real information on the situation more annoying than anything else. Well-written, though.
Oof too short, 614 words to go doesn't quite hold the same symbolic meaning the way Bucky's missing word count did.
Oh I think I remember this. Yep, I do.
I will start by saying that this doesn't feel incomplete thanks to the cyclical nature bestowed upon it by both the first and last line, but also thanks to the actual content in the way it portrays the protagonist's situation and the room.
However, that doesn't mean that there are a lot of things unanswered, but it definitely feels intentional which means it isn't bothersome. If anything it gives it a consistent identity. The writing seems to flow well and establish a good tone.
I like that it gets me thinking about why he would have subjected himself to this, because, as he says, "what sort of fool would subject himself to this for nothing?" It gets me thinking about the nature of eternal suffering and death a bit too, which always has the potential for some sweet existential crisis. What I mean to say is that I like the strong identity this work has, and it ultimately ends up feeling rather complete despite not revealing a lot of information, but it does reveal enough to get the reader thinking about stuff.
Totally worth reading, it is short too, which might actually be a benefit as I cannot imagine keeping this thing going for long would be easy. Good work with the rewrite, I'd go compare it with the old version if I wasn't so lazy.
Oh you linked the OG one, guess I have no excuse now...
The old version wasn't bad, but this one is definitely an improvement, the sentences just seem to fit together better, which makes for a better reading experience. I am curious about the significance of the things that were removed, but I guess it doesn't really matter.
I feel the improved flow of sentences likely contributes to the strong writing tone/style/identity you've got going on here, and I'd say it is a great example of how working on something can improve it by a lot (even if it wasn't technically wrong in the first place).
Can't wait for the third iteration! (obligatory /s, tho I would still read a third iteration).
It has been a long, hungry winter. But Mama has taken care of us.
We aren’t hungry anymore.
The snow has settled outside and has stopped for now. I try to keep my eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to ignore the sobbing from upstairs. It looks peaceful. The snow-capped mountain peaks stretch across my view, spines of ice and stone stabbing into the still and quiet sky. It’s beautiful, in a way.
Papa used to say the giants slept there. Hidden deep inside. Sleeping. One day, he said, they’d wake up. And they’d look at us small little things, and they’d judge us. Whether we were good, kind decent folk, or whether we were dark, twisted little things scuttling around.
I was scared of that, once. Scared that they’d know of the extra helpings I greedily devoured, scared they’d know of the times I angrily smacked my sister, scared they’d know of the lies, the sin, the evil that dwelt within me.
I’m not scared anymore.
Mama said there’s nothing sleeping in the mountains. I believe her. She doesn’t lie. She takes care of us, she always has, even when the bad times came, when the bad things came and took Papa.
I hope Mama is wrong. I hope one day, because it will be good. Because they will crush us like ants, and it will be just.
“There’s more stew, Margaret.”
A voice, timid and soft.
A haggard face peaks out from the rags and worn blankets sitting by the fire. A young face, once beautiful and kind, now weathered. Big, bright eyes sunken into a pale, skull-like face. The face of poverty, of famine, of hunger.
But we aren’t hungry anymore.
“I know. There’s lots more stew, Annabelle.”
“Would you like a second helping?”
I stare at her for a moment, before nodding slowly. Annabelle fills a wooden bowl, offering it to me. I stare down at it. It looks delicious, and it smells better, the smell of the meat-filled broth drifting up to my nostrils. As I take the bowl, somewhere deep inside, I hope the giants are watching.
Hunger drives people. It’s primal. Instinctual. Animalistic. The urges that dwell deepest in our hearts drive us to the deepest depths. Hunger. Sleep. Warmth. Lust.
Lust it what brought the men here. They were rare, at first, but more came. Every few days, a knock came at the door. That’s when I took Annabelle to play in the garden, among the flowers. If I went far enough, to where the trees became the forest, I couldn’t hear Mama anymore. The moaning. The grunting. The screaming. The fucking. Mama doesn’t know I know that word, but I do. Papa never said it. He was a good, god-fearing man.
Papa didn’t fuck. He made love. He was sweet like that.
But that isn’t what those men do. They don’t come here for love. They come here to fuck. To fulfil an urge. It’s primal. Instinctual. Animalistic.
Papa always left soft kisses on Mama’s neck when he left. The men leave money at the door, whatever meagre sum Mama is worth to them. That, and a baby. A baby, innocent and pure, that grows in Mama’s stomach, growing more and more every day.
What money Mama makes from the travellers isn’t much, but it’s enough. Enough to keep the hunger at bay, and that’s all we really need.
At least, it was. In the summers, when the road was clear, when travellers passed by the cottage. When flowers burst across the fields, flashes of colour and brightness. When times are good.
The winters offer no such respite. The harsh winds snap at you and tear at what few rags you wear. The snow smothers the fields, killing what little life manages to survive through Fall. The cold bites through your bones, bitter and unceasing.
But I don’t mind the cold. It simply numbs the senses and steals away poor souls, letting them drift off to sleep.
I don’t fear the cold. I fear the hunger. The hunger tortures, it gnaws away at you. First, it gnaws away at your flesh. It makes you thin and frail. Then, it gnaws away at your mind, making you crazed and desperate. Willing to do anything. Then, it gnaws away at your soul. At your memories, at your passions, at your morals. It gnaws away, until nothing’s left but the hunger. Until all you are, all that’s left, is that animalistic hunger.
They say it’s all that remains in the bad things. That the hunger changes you, twists you, destroys you. They say it makes you into an animal.
But I don’t believe that. Hunger doesn’t make, it doesn’t change. It’s an absence. All it can do is take. It takes away the pretty masks we wear. It takes away the lies we tell ourselves to sleep at night. The morals we so hypocritically hide behind. It takes away the facade, revealing us for the animals we are. The monsters that hide underneath the soft, delicate skin.
The beasts within are always there. I can hear mine, sometimes. If I listen very softly to my heartbeat. It whispers things to me in the faintest voice, as it waits, patient and still. Mama’s voice whispers to her as well, I can tell. I’m sure somewhere deep inside, it whispers to Mama.
They don’t come out until you let them. Not until hunger drives you to release them, to break that final taboo and let the animalistic urges take over. Maybe they’re trapped. Maybe they’re not ready yet. Maybe they just know that when you embrace them, when you take off your mask and show who you are underneath the facade, their moment of victory will taste all the sweeter.
It watches you struggle. It watches your desperation grow as your body begins to devour itself, desperate for nutrients. It watches you cling to the pathetic morals you swear you’ll hold true. Then, when you’re finally ready, the Wendigo comes out to play. It fills your belly, and the hunger finally stops. For the time being. But it comes back. It always does. No matter how many cold winters you survive, no matter how many times you fill your belly, the hunger always returns.
It must’ve been whispering in Mama’s ear for days. She’d done everything else to protect us. She had to. And I will be forever grateful for what she’s done for us. But even after all she’s done, it was part of her mask. And that mask is slipping.
Upstairs, the weeping has stopped. Mama is still now. The stew is warm in my stomach, and Annabelle is still next to me, fast asleep. Only the gentle sound of her breathing tells me that she’s still alive. With her pale, emaciated body, it’s hard to be sure sometimes.
The men came rarely in the winter. But they still came. A young man came by yesterday, a wanderer. He had money on him, but it was no good to Mama. Mama didn’t have the strength to walk to the village and buy food, and the stranger had little willingness to help him. He was just a man, like any other, seeking to fulfil his urges, and nothing more.
Mama needed to take of us. She threw away the final taboo, because her children, those she loved and cherished more than anything in the world, were so desperately, endlessly hungry.
Mama opened the door to the bad thing inside her, and now, it’s crawling out. It’s upstairs now. In the morning, while she cooked the soup, I could see it in her. In her eyes. They were dark, almost black. When she smiled at me, when she reassured me it would be alright, there was gristle in her teeth.
I can hear crying from upstairs, but not like before. It’s fresh now and high-pitched. The first cries of life, as a new life enters the world. Normally, it would fill me with joy. But Mama isn’t herself anymore. I saw her this morning. Her pretty features were gone. They’d been weathered away by time, hardship and hunger, but now, no signs of them remained. Her mask was gone, and the beast inside was taking over. She’s up above, changing still. Letting the hunger consume her.
The tears are coming faster, now. They’re pouring down my face, hot and wet. I think I’m sobbing, but only softly, so Mama doesn’t hear. I gently close my eyes, listening to the creaking of floorboards upstairs. The baby’s cries are brought to the end by the sound of a sickening crunch.
There’s a moment where I still my breath, trying to stop even my heart from beating for fear of Mama hearing. Then, there’s the crunching of bones breaking, of bloody meat slithering down a throat, of a wet tongue lapping at bloody remains.
Then, silence once more.
I release my breath, listening to my heart beating fast and loud.
Looking down, I see Annabelle’s big, brown eyes staring up at me. I pray silently she didn’t hear Mama tearing off the last traces of her facade.
“It’s OK. Go to sleep. Just shut your eyes and go to sleep.”
Annabelle nods obediently, squeezing her eyes shut.
I am terrified, scared and alone, but Mama will take care of us. She has always taken care of that. Soon, she will be down to us. Or, whatever the hunger has left of her will be down to us. She’ll prowl forward, the bestial urges having taken her, the mask having slipped off forever. She’ll kill us. She’ll devour us. She’ll tear us apart, as the beast inside feeds.
Hopefully, Annabelle sleeps through it. Hopefully, she falls asleep and never wakes.
But she won’t. From the tears running down her face, and the loud crunching of the stair boards as Mama slowly lumbers down, I know she’ll be awake. I know she’ll see what’s left of Mama, as will I, and she’ll feel every bit of what’s to come.
But at least we aren’t hungry anymore.
The plot twist should've just been the Mum had successfully shot a deer and now they could eat meat.
You got the plot right, just the reverse of it, then.
What I notice especially is that the viewpoint goes from a little kid's viewpoint (talking about if "we were good" and "She doesn't lie. She takes care of us.") to a more mature one (musing on the "absence" of hunger rather than hunger "making" and throwing away "the final taboo" before returning to a younger, fear-driven viewpoint again at the end.
I thought that was a neat effect.
Glad you enjoyed it, thanks.
Hmm, ~600 words over the soft limit isn't inherently bad, but I did feel it was significant enough to mention. I'm curious if you were aiming for closer to 1k and just ended up needing more for the story, but it doesn't matter.
After today I'll either change to avoid spoilers or just be more careful not to read other people's comments, because now I can't comment on if I would have figured out the twist before it happened!
Regardless, same thing that went with Gower applies here, quality build up to the twist is a thing that helps elevate twist stories into more complete works, while also making the endings more satisfying. It definitely helps with engagement levels too.
I'd definitely say you done a good job here, the repetition felt used to good effect even if it shows me that you could have potentially altered the style to produce a shorter story with the same concept. Luckily for, you 1k words was not a hard limit, so it doesn't really matter.
Good work with the descriptive language, really conveys the happenings and character thoughts, helping keep the story engaging.
I wonder if some lines are a bit melodramatic, but given the rather grim tone and the fact that I'm uncertain, I'll go with a no. You definitely used language to good effect to get the readers thinking down the relevant paths, but given that people have somewhat seen the twist coming I wonder if that was your intention. I'll assume it was, but if you wanted it to be a greater surprise, I worry a good deal would need to be changed for it to work.
Well written with a consistent tone/feel, and rather well executed ending. Definitely feels like a complete story, which makes me wonder if I should even classify it as a twist story... hmm. Anyhow, it is as such, worth a read.
I assumed 1000 was a minimum, not a goal to meet. I wasn't really going for any bit of a twist, I mean, I think it would've been clear enough there was cannibalism going on, because cannibalism is the clear evil twist when hungry people are suddenly eating lots of meat. I'm glad you enjoyed it, anyhow, thanks for the criticism, I'll take it on board.
The smell of oil had no doubt been embedded into the curtains by the time Scott completed the ritual correctly, but he figured the smell of the burning dog hair and cinnamon would cover that up enough that his wife wouldn’t notice. Besides, it was her fault that this took so long. Maybe if she could put her coffee cup in the sink now and then instead of leaving it on the counter, or, better yet, not pour three times more coffee than she actually drank, that cup would not have fallen over and stained the eight hundred-year old manuscript.
What was he even doing worrying about what his wife thought? She would have to be a fool to not be pleased when he showed her what he had learned.
Scott was just testing if he used his new power on both the cat and himself at once when he heard a few beeps and the sound of a door unlocking. The way Sharon gasped in horror when she entered the apartment would have made someone who did not know her think she had just learned her sister and father had just been killed by a Hungarian-Burmese suicide bomber while having sexual relations on the pulpit of a Baptist church on Sunday morning. It was an exclamation reserved for the greatest of shock and tragedy.
“Oh my god, what have you done? Oh no oh no oh no…” Sharon rushed to the middle of the living room and knelt on the floor before the remains of a dozen clownfish that lay on the floor.
“Are you stupid?! What were you thinking?”
”It’s not that big of a deal. I put some, uh, some of that newspaper down here you see.” Scott tapped the corner of the newspaper with his foot before remembering his day’s accomplishments. “Stand up and look here.”
“No, Scott. I can’t—I can’t deal with this anymore. You need to clean this up and—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” She scrambled to her feet and ran to the closet before returning with a bottle of carpet cleaner which she began spraying onto the floor.
“Not now, Scott.”
Scott yanked her up away from the carpet and pulled her to a standing position before showing her his arm. “I did it.” Three designs of what seemed to be something between a spider web and the doily that was always falling off the nightstand were carved into his skin—two of which appeared to have been only half completed.
“So now you’re cutting yourself because I didn’t want you to get a tattoo, ok.” Sharon began to kneel once again only to find herself on the other side of the front door, from where Scott could hear her cursing. Then, after another moment, she was cursing at the dining room table. “What the HELL is going on?”
“I did it. You know that old book of magic thingies I got from Dad’s stuff when he died? Well, I’ve been doing some experimentation today, see, and now I can move people and such around.”
Sharon stared at him for a moment before her expression broke into a smile. “I didn’t think you’d actually be able to get something out of that. Your father was always very dedicated and a hard worker, after all, and even he never got far with that book, but since you have these new abilities, why did you not use them to clean this place up?” Her voice too on an accusatory tone once more.
“Well, I tried moving that stuff earlier, but it seems that it only works here on living things or at least cats and people.”
“You’re just going to have to clean this up the old-fashioned way then.” She took a deep sniff. “Oh, I do hope that greasy smell is going to come out of the curtains!”
Although disgruntled at his wife’s more underwhelming response to his accomplishment than he hoped for, Scott got to work cleaning things up, starting in the living room. He was just getting to the turkey gizzards when he looked put the window and say a boy of around seven or eight years old walking on the road, apparently alone. Then he had a genius idea.
“Scott? Scott?! I heard yelling. What’s going on out here? Scott!”
Sharon emerged from the dark hallway to find her husband leaning against the counter with a shit-eating grin on his face and the boy doing the dishes. “I figured I might as well get someone to help out a bit with this. It’s paying off already!”
The sniffling boy seemed too frightened to speak but moved as if he was trying to step away from the sink before being pushed back by an invisible force. “I told you that I’ll let you go after you’ve helped me crawl up on the counter and cleaned the wall,” Scott chided him. “He was a little mouthy, but I got him to settle down a bit.”
“Are you crazy? You can’t just take some random kid! His parents will be looking for him. Oh, this is bad...”
“Don’t go fussing now. I said I’d put him back when I was done.”
“Yes, you did, but what happens when the police are at our door and I get arrested and sent to the electric chair all because you couldn’t even be bothered to clean up after the mess despite spending who knows how long making it!” she screamed.
“Settle down. It’s not as if anyone will believe him. Nobody goes around using teleportation to take kids to clean for them.”
“Yes, they have! Remember the Bobby Dahl kidnapping!”
“Pretty sure that was a murd—”
“He was caught when a neighbor saw him move crows out of his yard, and then everything came out, and there was a big uproar and that one thing with the ice cream truck, and, oh my god, I’m going to call the police and move in with my sister.” By this point, the kids wailing had joined Sharon’s panic, and it was all making Scott very uncomfortable.
Sharon attempted to disobey and storm into their room to pack her bag but found herself trapped where she was.
“I have an idea. See, we’ll just send him somewhere else real far away.”
“Well it’ll have to be somewhere with a lot of people so he can find someone to help him so he doesn’t just starve, but it also has to be far enough that he won’t end up back here to show where we live.”
“Uh, well. India has a lot of people in it. That’s pretty far, right? I’ll send him over to Calcutta or wherever.”
A week later, Sharon stormed into the living room where Scott sat watching television and held her smartphone in front of his face. “Nice going.”
Scott leaned over to read the headline of the news article she was showing him.
Missing Nebraska boy found mysteriously drowned and washed up on Bengal Beach
Hmm, is it just me or should you have proofread more closely?
I don't know how conclusive this is... but I'd classify it as a comedy, though I suppose a little darker comedy given some of the concepts. Anyway, I feel that as a comedy it works just fine, but because the kid doesn't get introduced all that quickly, him being the pseudo-twist for the ending means that I feel slightly unsatisfied, might just be me.
Anyway, I'd see if you can condense the earlier part, or find a way to place more emphasis on the kid as their own character, that way you could keep this ending. Otherwise I'd imagine expanding it so that the ending has more to do with the super powered guy instead would feel more whole. I'm not too confident on all this tho, so take it with a grain of salt.
Oh, I will add another alternative, after the "***" mini time hop add another part, one which occurs prior to the scene we just witnessed (or I should say simultaneously as the scene we just witnessed) and have it follow the boy. This way you can develop them more as their own character so that the ending fits better with the whole piece. Yet... this adds its own problems, so again, I'm not too sure.
Anyway the story is still rather amusing with good flow and pacing (barring the two things I pointed out which stuck out). The ending also isn't bad, I just feel it could have been better. Regardless you do manage to do quite a bit in regards to information conveyed, but you also keep engagement high so it is pretty awesome.
I'm curious on how you feel about this story tho, you're happy with it (hopefully, as I'd you should be) but are there any other things you wish to share regarding your thoughts on it? How was it writing it? Did you get everything you wanted in? Simple stuff, really, I'm just curious.
Worth a read, pretty humorous and mostly well written, with very good pacing. I feel the ending could be a bit better, but this is an uncertain criticism so I wouldn't worry much about it.
Boy, I sure do want to read a story that is crap, so glad you told me about that, now I can read what I want to read, so glad you posted crap in the first place too. I'll blame it on your being barely awake, but I expect you to not fall in the group of self-hating for pity points people, which means you must really think it is crap unless you dropped this: (/s). Alternatively, you're proving a point that even crap stories can get someone out of hell, or perhaps you're opining that everyone else has submitted crap as well so you're sneakily throwing shade.
Also you used the descriptor of "stern black letters" and don't utilize BOLD? I guess flair for visual representation in text stories isn't really necessary, but it is an easy addition...
I must try to nitpick because you called it crap.
I'll stop here because I want to enjoy the story and I worry about where this gimmick element of this post will lead, and besides, you're an admin, you can just edit your post.
I thought this was a cliffhanger ending, but thinking about it, it makes more sense as a twist ending. There is enough build up for it too, and it is impressive that you managed a sci-fi setting for a short story like this.
The writing was solid, really hooks you in and you provided the exposition in a way that didn't detract from the experience, information flow in general is handled nicely. Good work.
As mentioned, good work with a sci-fi story for this. The world felt big despite being mostly in one place, but the flow and pacing of events still kept it very engaging. The world felt believable (that is to say, I have suspended my disbelief), and that is a great thing to achieve.
The setting also felt very relevant for the story, as you'd definitely lose something if you changed it (or at least that is what I think). As such good work executing on that front.
Wait for Mizal's next story, seeing as she called this one crap. Tho if you do bother reading it, it is actually pretty decent, with a well realised setting all things considered.
One tip when the third person past starts feeling weird is to switch around between "she walked" to "as she was walking..." and "she had just finished walking when" if the chronology of the story allows for it.
There's a lot of pastness to choose from.
I don't understand why there would be a problem with "was" or "had." They are as neutral words as can be. I think that advice comes from the same place as writing advice not to say "He said" or "Bob said" all the time for speech attributions, but instead to mix it up with "She observed" or "Bob countered" and it can be promptly tossed out.
People half-memorize fake rules because it makes them feel like they have decoded the mysterious process of writing, and then they love to inflict their fake rules on other people.
“Sing me a song, Keri. The sunshine song.”
I looked up at Mika, his eyes barely visible behind his blanket as they pleaded with me to drown out the screaming.
“Sing it with me,” I urged.
Mika pulled the blanket up over his ears until he looked like a wizard with a cowl on- almost comedic with his ears sticking out the sides- and peered at me expectantly.
“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter,”I rasped, unable to keep my voice stable and clear. It didn’t matter how loud or how long we sung, it never really stopped. Even in the middle of the night when The Monster is lying asleep next to mum, her screaming would echo in waves through my head. I wished it would just all stop. Stop, and I would never have to hear the high-pitched wails again, but then I realised what that would mean. And that could never happen, not for as long as I lived. I knew what that could do to us and vowed to never let it happen, for Mika. He’s a strong boy, that’s true, but I didn’t know how much more of it he could take before he’d snap and think it was a good idea to tell someone. And we could never, ever tell someone for The Monster promised us we would face a lifetime of shame, or hints of not even a life at all.
I shuffled over to him and grasped his hand.
“Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s alright.” He mouthed it with me, slowly daring to close his eyes.
We hummed the next few lines together, two kids huddled up on the floor of their state house bedroom. The Monster couldn’t get us here, we were trapped in our own little bubble, far away from the punching and screaming and kicking and biting and throwing and touching and whatever else The Monster did. As long as we were together and my mum was someplace else, we would be alright. The floor didn’t offer much comfort, but we didn’t mind that. It was only a few hours anyway, and then we could go to school and leave The Monster at home. I waited in earnest for school, even though I got in trouble a lot for not concentrating. School was a place where Monsters were bad, and I could write stories about Mika and I leaving our house forever and escaping to live with our real father somewhere else. Because there is no way I was related to The Monster, I just didn’t believe that. He’s too scary, too mean.
“It seems like years since it’s been clear.”
Mika’s breathing began to slow down, and I smiled to myself. He’s going to be ok. He’s going to make it out of this, finish school, get a job and then have his own family without The Monster. Maybe I can live with him too and we can make all those stories about escaping come true.
I kept singing as Mika drifted off to sleep, more for myself now than for him. The Monster was not far away, and I knew I was the next victim. Shaking, I pulled the blanket off my legs and draped it over my little brother, covering his ears.
“Sun, sun, sun, here it comes,”I whispered, praying to whatever God that sometimes looked out for me would take pity and speed up the world so the rays of light could return, and I could get out of my house and away from The Monster at school. Selfishly, I wished that my mum’s screams would continue because as long as she was in pain, The Monster was far away from me and Mika and I could remain safe.
“Here it comes. Sun, sun, sun, here it comes,”I whimpered, struggling to keep my sobs down.
I heard footsteps pounding outside the door, coming closer and closer.
“Here it comes.”
I prayed that The Monster would pass by our room as the screams died off and the footsteps edged closer. Pressing my thumbs into my fingers, I shut my eyes tight and desperately held my hands over my ears, trying to block it out. Maybe if I couldn’t see The Monster, he would ignore me.
Even with my hands pressed hard against my ears, the slam of the door being forced open startled me and I let out a shriek as The Monster entered the room. From where I was sitting in the corner, he looked so much bigger and stronger than me and I felt utterly helpless. He glared at me with a look so scathing I trembled uncontrollably.
“Keri, why aren’t you in bed?” he growled.
I didn’t know what to say. Tell him that the bed has mites in it? That his vicious beating of my mother kept me awake? That I worried sick about my little brother and was scared to sleep while him, The Monster, roamed the house in fear that Mika would get abused too?
“Answer me!” he snapped.
I clasped my hands together to stop the shaking. “I-I’m sorry, I-“
“I work hard for this family, to put food on the table, educate you kids, and you’re just throwing it all away. Can’t you see, I’m just trying to prevent you from ending up like me,” The Monster said, exasperated.
I nodded, attempting to look grateful. I thought that maybe there was a chance I would survive this encounter unscathed. “I appreciate it, really. Mika and I both,” I told him.
He stood there, seemingly unsure of what to do next.
“Is Mika asleep?” he questioned.
I cast my eyes downwards to where he lay with his back to The Monster. Mika’s eyes, wide open, met mine, and they screamed at me to not say anything.
The Monster shrugged in annoyance. “His rugby coach called. Something we will have to talk about later.”
He turned to walk out the door. “Goodnight Keri.”
“I love you.”
I just smiled weakly in response, unwilling to bring myself to return the statement. The Monster looked at me and for a second, I thought I saw a look of regret flash across his face as he shut the door.
A few seconds after he departed, Mika sat up. “I told him,” he whimpered. “I told him, and Dad knows. He knows.”
I frowned. “Told him what?”
“I told my coach. He asked why I was so tired and I… I don’t know I just-“Mika cut off his own sentence and broke down, sobbing into his blanket. “Dad knows I told him! He knows Keri!”
As Mika’s sobs threatened to get louder and out of control, I pulled him close and began to sing again.
“Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s alright.”
Hmm, would you look at that, italics used for visual flair, someone with a certain 'm' username could learn a thing or two from here.
The fact the first twist came before the end meant I didn't see it coming, very good choice of information to share early on for a compelling read. Good thing that it stayed consistent for the rest of the story too. The writing quality was great too, tho I do question this line:
Maybe it just broke up the flow of the section it was in, because I think it does make sense rereading it, so I might have just tripped on it for no reason, but figured I'd mention it anyway.
The story does feel complete even if the ending is far from a happy or final one, and I think this is because of the way elements are handled helping make the story feel more real and make the reader confront the reality that some people have as their own literal reality. Basically, it seems to work for the type of story being conveyed here.
I liked the writing style, really felt well utilised to keep quality flow throughout the story, but also some of the sentence structure really helping put myself in the protagonist's shoes and engage with the story.
Worth a read, a solid story with a strong and consistent style/tone. Engaging throughout.
An affluent crowd gathers around a masterpiece, ignoring the thin ceiling held up by pillars. However, among them only one is truly focused upon the painting, yet this man's sincerity comes not from an honest place.
Weary eyes bore into the depiction of Ryptolis piercing the sun with his spear while standing upon the index finger of the petrified titan Ssor, and in the background, the calamity star hurls towards the earth. An artist's unique interpretation of anthology rarely bothers the man, who but desires a vision.
Then someone pushes past him, disturbing his revere. Eyes defocus as they gaze into the future. The man begins to leave, only one thought in mind.
Time to prepare.
Cold seeps through cloth as the man kneels on stone and sticks a heavy-duty suction-cup upon it, and with his free hand withdraws a specialised knife from a large nylon bag, and then begins to cut out a large circle. When he is finished he pulls up the concrete chunk and smacks it off to the side. He retrieves the suction-cup but discards the knife.
He stands up, double checks his pre-anchored rope, then steps into the gap, the rope tightens. He is standing on the pillar which the painting is beside. He begins the descent, step by step. Thin laser strands cover the floor in tightly backed rows and columns. He must not trigger them.
He reaches the painting, its glass protection reflecting his shadow. He attaches the suction-cup, and lifts. When clear he swings out to the side, letting go with one hand. It is heavy. He reaches for the panel next to the painting's frame. He opens it, then gets to breaking it. There is a sizzle and a spark, he withdraws a leaking battery. There is nowhere to put it, and the painting will require a proper grip. He grimaces, then plops the battery into his mouth. The acid is heavily diluted. He grabs the paintings frame, then fumbles to flip a switch on his waist with an elbow. The zipline begins to retract. His arms begin to ache.
Back on the roof the man pants as he shakes his arms, then spits the battery into a hand and stuffs it into a pocket. He'll deal with it later. He stores the painting in the nylon bag, leaving behind the glass and tools, and heads for the fire escape.
The splashing of waves does little to ease the man's mind. He gets of his bike and enters the abandoned dock warehouse. Little moonlight enters through the shattered windows, but there is enough to illuminate two other silhouettes. One is twitchier than the other one. The man reaches them.
"Painting?" the calm one asks.
"Yeah." The man puts down the nylon bag, then opens it partially. It is examined.
"Nice… $400,000 good?"
"What? We agreed on $500,000!"
"Yeah, but that might be a little high."
"Are you being serious?"
The calm one turns around and walks towards a bundle of two bags. It must be the money. "You try," he tells his companion.
Twitchy approaches the man, "Hey…"
A taser smashes into the man's chest, dispensing a great shock, which makes him fall down, spasming. Twitchy pivots, gun now in hand, pointed at his partner. "Freeze!"
"Shut up! I'm taking it all, I don't want to kill you man."
The man zones out their talking, he doesn't care, he needs to focus on regaining control over his body. It is but a few moments before he begins to recover. His assailant couldn't have known about his past, so this recovery will undoubtedly catch him off guard. He begins to stand, Twitchy is still facing his ex-companion.
"Then just shoot me!" shouts the non-aggressive buyer.
He is cut of as an arm appears around his neck, yanking him backwards and pressuring his windpipe. A chokehold. The other buyer runs up while the assailant kicks and retrieves the taser. The man barely manages to let go as the assailant is shocked.
"Fuck this shit… a bloody traitor." He looks to the man. "Thanks. You can take the money." He looks back down, thinking.
The man wastes no time rushing over to the two bags of money, and then out of the warehouse and to his bike. He can still make it. He pedals as quickly as he can.
An unsavoury part of town, the man locks his bike to an alley fence, which he then throws his bags over before climbing past himself. He eyes the cellar door for an old brick building.
The stairs are dusty, the only noise in this narrow hallway is that of a leaky pipe's drip, drip, drip. The man reaches the door. It scrapes the floor as he forces it open.
An antique bar sits against the back wall, at it a goon is mixing a cocktail, and a man, undoubtedly the collector, sits in front him dressed in a suit. As the man steps into the room a group of four goons sitting at a small table draped in shadow turn to face him, the Collector spares him but a glance.
The man puts his two bags on the table. "I've got the money."
The Collector clicks a hand, a goon from the corner table walks over, pulls the bags over to himself, and begins counting.
"You can go when he finishes."
The man nods. He is feeling drowsy. He takes a seat beside the Collector. The goon finishes the cocktail, pours it in the Collector's cup. The man's head slams the table, the drink spills.
The Collector sighs. "The fuck?" He pulls back the man's head by his hair. His eyes are rolled back and an oily dark fluid is pouring from the mouth. "Ugh!" He yanks the head back so that the corpse falls to the floor.
"It's all here," says the counting goon.
"Take him away. At least he paid his debt."
Quick disclaimer that I wrote this a bit shy of midnight and just finished formatting it for CYS. I tried to make it funny but at the same time fill up space. Have a nice time reading this and I apologize if the ending was cramped, I was going to hit 1k too early.
Edit 1: To explain the ending, she’s a goddess of putting things to 100% (but only things she touches).
Everyone was meant to be something interesting. From birth, we had marks on our bodies. These marks denoted our future in society, and each job had a different one. It was easier to sort people, then, when it first started happening. Engineer, doctor, artist, mortician. The weirdest one I’ve seen was murderer; and those are pretty rare to come across. Nobody was ever made fun of. Nothing was questioned. From the moment you understood the soul marks, you understood your destiny.
Nobody was quite sure what to do when they saw my soul mark.
There was a new alphabet for interpreting these marks, and was very accurate. So accurate to when my parents found out, or rather, the hospital staff found out, they were sure that had been reading it wrong.
Not every child is born a God, but I was.
I’ve been wondering over that fact since I was old enough to understand it. What kind of God am I? Am I one who causes slight inconvenience to man? Am I responsible for USB cords not charging things immediately? I must be affecting cell service. Or maybe I’m a God of guilty conscience.
The first time I remember being told about it was in fourth grade, in Ms. Fulmer’s class. Recess. The wind was nice and cool, and smelled like the aftermath of the night before’s rain. The empty lot across from the playground was vibrant with wildflowers; kids had climbed the fence to go snip a few with safety scissors. The rest of us stood huddled in a massive ring over the woodchips, our shirt sleeves pushed up to reveal our marks.
My best friend Mason grinned as everyone ooh’d and aah’d when they saw his. We’d known each other since diapers, and he had always been proud of his mark. He was supposed to be a Race Car Driver. I didn’t know what that was, of course, but looking back on it now, it was pretty vague. He died last summer in an illegal car race on the highway.
Back to the story.
His arm had a bold, thick mark of a racecar on it and all the girls touched it with interest. A few announced their jobs with excited energy, each naming an equally interesting career like Astronaut, or Journalist, or Coal Miner (I tried not to laugh at that one because she looked so excited). When it was my turn, I pointed to the bold mark of the planet on my arm with sass.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to be, but I think it’s cool!” I said proudly. The other kids shifted uncomfortably. For a society adjusted to knowing everything, the uncertainty of my mark was startling to them. They got the teacher.
Mrs. Fulmer smiled at me and took a look at my mark. There was a brief moment of silence before Mason swaggered up to her and put his hands on his hips, giving her the worst stink-eye I’ve ever seen; green eyes bulging and lower lip jutting out similar to the overbite of a pitbull, if it were 4’7” and a ginger. The worst combination.
My teacher looked confused at first, like the children, before her face flickered to a soft smile I quickly acknowledged as fake. She announced recess was over and herded Mason and the rest into the school building with a bit of poking and prodding with a meter stick she’d found from the fifth graders’ recess before ours.
Soon it was just her and I standing under the tarp over the buddy bench. She told me to sit, so I sat.
Mrs. Fulmer liked to stand.
She folded her arms in front of her. “Do you know what a God is, Natalie?”
I chewed on my lip, debating over a response. “Isn’t a God someone who writes a big book? And who makes things with magic?”
Mrs. Fulmer didn’t have a good sense of humor.
I don’t remember much else from that day besides going home and trying very, very hard to valiantly bend a mental spoon with my mind.
Years went by. I’m in high school now, about to graduate in a few months, and it seems as if the only superpower I have is pushing people away when they get weirded out by the fact I’m supposed to be a God, and finishing assignments two minutes before the teacher takes it up and somehow ace-ing it. If that’s an actual power, I’m not sure, but it should be.
Sometimes I snap my fingers and hope something happens. Nothing ever happens. I go to the empty lot that used to grow with wildflowers when I was in elementary school and try to stare down the greenery to see if I can make them grow with the sheer power of ADHD.
My parents tell me not to worry about it, and I’ll figure it out when I get to it.
I slump into my seat in Statistics. I’m late, and I yank the zipper open to my backpack and heave my massive, cluttered binder onto the desk as quietly as possible. Which apparently, is not one of my superpowers either.
The teacher gives me a lazy-once over before resuming her rant about how grape flavored lollipops aren’t actually grape-flavored; likely a ploy made by the lacrosse boys to get her to talk so they can finish up last-minute homework. The girl behind me taps my shoulder, and I turn my head 40 degrees so I can talk to her, but I don’t have to look at her past my coffee.
“Hey, Nat? Can you plug this charger in for me? It’s not working and I think I just have some really bad luck with electronics. I’m supposed to be a politician, so...”
I nod grudgingly and take the small white brick in my hands, finding the electrical socket and shoving the prongs in. “Thanks so much! I’m at 100% now!”
FIVE WORDS MISSING!!! Jokes aside, here is another one: don't explain the ending in an edit at the top of the page, spoilers but also because you can then laugh at people who can't figure it out. Jokes aside for real this time, if you have to edit your story to explain the ending, maybe rewriting the ending is the proper way to go, however I can see why it could be difficult to do this given the interesting premise.
New obligatory typo point outs:
A comedy! [Insert that I'm not an expert on comedies.] Anyway, I rather liked this one, and while I do think it makes a complete story, I do feel the ending could be improved a bit for clarity. Maybe just a tiny bit longer so you can add a few words to those ending scenes so things are clearer?
Other than that, the ending is a twist ending, sorta, because it doesn't do too much to disrupt reader interpretations of previous parts, but it is humorous so I'd say it does what it needs to.
The writing itself looks good to me, barring the two typos above, but I would like to give a shout out to the flow and pacing in the way they handle the story moving between different scenes, along with the time skip. It fits together well, and the tone feels consistent too. Good work!
Maybe not the best title, but I wanted to mention that if the protagonist is a god, I think it makes sense to not capitalise the word as I think that is reserved for scenarios where there is a the God (unless you are using it as a ... proper noun). Granted I might've just made this up right now, or it might be a style thing, but I did want to mention it. Small things add up!
Worth a read, nice little story with an interesting premise that could probably be utilised for a number of different stories, if one wanted, but as it is, for what is here, it definitely still holds up on its own merits.
Thanks for the review. I would have edited it more thoroughly, but at the time I had tunnel vision on making deadline. I capitalized God due to the fact that everyone’s job was also capitalized to draw attention/signify it’s relevance, as well as being a stylistic choice. The ending could be radically improved, of course.
“Please...” Maria begged.
There was no response. Instead, her father turned his back and disappeared into the darkness. Maria’s reddened eyes remained fixed on the door, waiting for it to open. It didn’t. Eventually, a weak, orange light shone onto Maria’s face and her head turned towards the window. The sun had awoken, beginning its journey across the sky. She didn’t have much time.
Maria dashed past golden-haired columns into a magnificent sandstone hall. She observed the group beneath the archway. They were bright stars, fitting comfortably in ink black robes and leather shoes that shone in the morning sun. Some sported glasses and other distinguished beards. With elevated chins and erect backs, they shifted and turned and moved from person to person, greeting one another with firm handshakes and long, superficial conversations. As she approached the crowd, Maria could make out murmuring.
“I can’t believe it...”
“He’s a madman!”
“He’ll be lucky if they only arrest him.”
“I heard they’ll kill him.”
“It’s just a crazy theory, but he thinks it’s true.”
Once immersed in the crowd, Maria noticed that the man fell silent. She recognised familiar faces: they were her father’s friends, colleagues, and students. Some glanced at her; none dared look at her directly. She quickly moved towards the doors of the hall.
A looming figure, draped in a blood-red cloak, haunted the stand. The man displayed a large silver necklace – the mark of his creed. Maria clasped her string of beads and lowered her head as she approached the figure. Kneeling in front of him, she begged, “Please sir, I come to speak about my father.”
“The crazy fool? He who questions the work of Aristotle? The work of Ptolemy?” He laughed. It was a long laugh. Feeling the sting of ridicule, Maria’s eyes began to moisten involuntarily.
“You must understand, he’s old and weak –”
“Ah, of course I do. You must understand that your father has undermined this great establishment and unless he retracts his beliefs, then we will take all necessary actions!”
Maria gripped her beads tighter. There was nothing else she could do or say. She recalled their old dinner time conversations from her childhood. Being logical and thorough, she would draw on general knowledge; scientific principles. But every time she gave a convincing reason, he had refuted it; he had refused to be wrong. There was something noble about his ideas – something beautiful and unique. But, sometimes she wanted to just walk away – to shout at him and tell him he was crazy. Maria buried her face in her hands.
“Unless he retracts his beliefs...” The words taunted her.
She was already too late.
A lonely, pale figure hobbled towards the hall, illuminated by the glow of orange light. It was Maria’s father.
“Please Father, just tell them what they want to hear!” In a rigid movement, he placed his wrinkled, veiny arms onto her shoulders. Illness was visible in his sunken eyes.
“They’ll kill you! Please!”
He sighed and then turned towards the horizon, tracing the movement of the sun across the sky. He was like a crazy man. That was the reality that they both had to face. Estranged from humanity – existentially lonely. Was Maria’s love enough to overcome the judgement of others? Maria no longer knew where her own loyalty lay.
Maria knelt on the ground, praying, as she watched her father enter the hall. Silently taking a seat at the very back, near the door, she twisted her beads around her fingers. The crowd was silent.
In the centre of the room, Maria’s father stood upright, his expression resolute. In the place where he stood, in that exact moment, the bright stars seemed to revolve about him. Maria’s father faced the figure, a judge, locked eyes like bulls locking horns – both refusing to move.
“You’re a crazy man.”
Maria clenched her beads.
“It isn’t a crime to be crazy. But... it is a serious crime, punishable by torture, to supplant the head of our establishment.”
Maria’s father did not move. His eyes did not lower; his back did not hunch. Maria’s heart palpated.
The judge twisted his silver cross necklace and commanded, “Do you have anything to say, sir?” Maria’s father, with his warm brown eyes, turned to face the hall and found her. He bit his lip, then gripped the sides of his robe and turned to stare out the window. In his mind, the sun had frozen in the middle of the sky.
He lowered his eyes and whispered, “I recant my theory...”
There was a searing silence; the audience lowered their heads. Maria’s eyes remained fixed on her father; the booming-voiced man became a lifeless figure, alone in the hall, struggling to stand and struggling to lift his head.
Maria could hear the voice of the judge, “Let the records show that on this day, Galileo Galilei recanted his theory that the Earth revolves around the sun.”
Galileo, while exiting the hall, stopped in front of Maria. He looked down at the ground, gave it a tap with his foot and muttered, “And yet it moves...”
Sister Maria Celeste held out her hands. Her rosary beads were entwined around her fingers as her father’s warm hands encompassed hers. He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead before he disappeared into the light.
891, normally I'd do 2 500 word stories but this was what I could come up with in 48 hrs.
“Hey, Muiiq, how much longer do we have to hike?”
The pair of adventurers, adventurer Sully and nomad Muiiq, have been wandering the great desert for several days now, starting before the dawn and stopping only at dusk. Most would regard them as fools; none of them have made a name for themselves, and many great explorers have fallen in these sands. Nonetheless, they continue to march, looking for treasure, for artifacts. However, it would be two more days until they find anything noteworthy - an abandoned tomb almost buried in sand, containing none but an archaic lamp.
. . .
I wake up to feel some humans rubbing my lamp. If those bastards break my lamp, I would die, I remind myself. Without a better choice in mind, I leave my lamp. Of course, shock is the first emotion they feel, and one of them - the one in what looks like Indiana Jones cosplay - nearly throws the lamp.
“Wait!’ I bellow at them, making them halter their movements. Slowly, they look at me - and probably just now realizes that I am still connected to the lamp.
The first one to speak is the man in the white robes - a nomad, if I recall correctly - who immediately apologizes for the both of them. “Nahn asafun!” he cries out, getting down on one knee. He’s not a bad person, I think to myself, Yet, he has led that douche here. I’ll have my fun with them both.
“Save face; there is no issue here,” I lie, still very much angry that I was nearly killed in my slumber, “In fact, it has been a long while since I had visitors. Please, allow me to grant you each three wishes.” I offer them. That much is not a lie, I really will grant them three wishes, though they had better be concise - I am, after all, in a piss poor mood. “You cannot wish for someone’s death or rebirth, you cannot wish to find love, and you cannot wish for more wishes - or genies. Please do not wish for more genies.”
The people looked at the spirit. Willing to grant three wishes - although there is more to it. Genies are, after all, evil by nature. Between Muiiq’s mythology he learned as a junior acolyte and Sully’s addiction to Aladdin, they both knew that they would be conned if they weren’t careful. Taking the lead, the nomad takes the first wish.
“Ah, for my first wish, I wish for the wells of my home village to refill with fresh, drinkable water. That water is not to fill past the flood line of the wells, and for there to be excess - once again, fresh - groundwater to be stored in the appropriate reservoirs as well.” The genie, understandably, looked confused. Not at the complexity of the wish, of course - genies are, after all, some of the smartest beings on the planet - but at the lack of loopholes that could be made.
“Consider it done. As we speak, there is a great rain. This rain is to continue until the wells - and the reservoirs - have been filled exactly to the flood lines.” The genie looks proud of himself for that one, but the joke is on him - there has been a dreadful drought plaguing the area. With the rain, the land could once again become arable.
This time, the adventurer looks up at the genie and makes his wish. “I wish, by strictly magical methods, for a great many jewels and gems to appear in my home. This magic cannot be teleportation or any other transportation magic; these jewels and gems must not have been in anybody else’s legal ownership in accordance with the modern laws of ownership. Furthermore, the gems and jewels must be pre-cut, and there must be no damage stemming from the gems and jewels. Finally, there must a good assortment.” The genie’s surprise brought joy to his heart; he has outsmarted a genie!
“Consider it done. Creatures of many a mythology are now working to fabricate and create gems and jewels for you. However, they have already been noticed by the public eye, and them bringing unidentified burlap sacks to your house is drawing a lot of attention.” Again, the genie looks proud of himself.
“Hang on, how long will they work for me?” Sully finds himself asking. Not that he minds the magical creatures - quite the contrary; he wants to see them more than he wants to see the treasures!
“Until their contracts expire, in which case another creature with an unfulfilled contract comes to take their place. This will continue until you discharge them all - although this will require you to take on all their contracts.” The genie tells him unsympathetically.
“Does this… Does this mean that they will work for me forever if I don’t discharge them?” Sully asks, joy shining in his eyes.
“Well, until you die, in which case the creatures fulfill their contracts elsewhere,” The genie states, hoping for a negative reaction. Instead, all he hears is the cheers of joy coming from him - which confuses and worries both the nomad and the genie.
The promise of weeks of rain, with no negative reaction. Does that nomadic fool not realize the implications of that? And the other man… how could someone be so happy to have a bunch of mythical magic slaves? Especially considering that they will - that they already are - drawing massive amounts of attention? However, these two men, they seem to know the way I work, what with how specific their wishes are. That, more than anything else, is what concerns me. Suddenly, my thoughts are interrupted by the nomad.
“Is it possible to wish for your lamp to be unbreakable?” he suddenly asks. He cannot - that would be equivalent of asking for my immortality - which I simply cannot grant, no matter how it was worded. I tell him that much, still confused by the matter.
“Well, then I guess we will have to be careful. Upsy-daisy~!” the adventure yells as he picks up the lamp.
“Wha-” I yell out. Are they… are they bringing me with them?! Normally when you give some fools a genie, it ends in regret - for the fools. However, they know the importance of concise language. Well, as long as they don’t absolutely destroy my lamp, these aren’t the worst to have captured me. However, they better not let their guard down - one slip of the tongue, and I will get. them back. I still have, after all, four more wishes to grant.
Made the deadline with a little help of a writing prompt - that, and bringing my 12 pound brick of a laptop with me to town.
All to spite Excel. Please free me from hell.
Yeah, I noticed that on the re-read, perspective changes do not fit well in a short story. Such a shame, I didn't know which perspective I wanted to stick with.
I'm glad the story itself went okay, it was a refreshing change of pace from what I usually write.
So, uh, can you say "uwu" or is that also a no-no word?
I guess he doesn't know how this site or the discord works.
I was slightly late on the promised delivery, so I wrote 3.5 times the words that I needed to in order to get to an ending in this mess. Yeah, that was my issue!
HOLY SHIT YOU'RE ALIVE
( 0 c 0) =3
Rumors of my demise were... Highly exaggerated.
Mostly by you.
Shame on you, Puddlebunni. Shame.
Thanks mom. Funny how the 1,000 word stories had more posts than the 21 word ones. Zake's going to be rolling in the comms today.
Okay posted my story here (A New Beginning). It's currently at the bottom of the thread:
It's over 2000 words, so I went a little overboard, but it needed to be the size it was going to be.