Writing Prompt “Silence”
Word Count: 1,200
- This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
- To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
- Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
- Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.
Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” regarding other contest requirements.
All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.
Story Submission Rules:
- One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
- Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
- Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.
Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 8:00pm CET/5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and you have 24 hours to vote.
- You may vote only once.
- You cannot vote for yourself.
To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.
See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.
The writing prompt for April 15, 2021, will be chosen by Victoria Chvatal.
208 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Silence””
Read the stories here:
(If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let Carrie know she somehow missed it.
Meanwhile, please be patient, there is only one moderator, and she is not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)
The Importance of Being Silent
Silent. That’s what he’d been told, to be completely silent. Not a word. Otherwise it would be all over.
Jeff had known this was coming, had known for a couple of weeks in fact, but that didn’t make it any easier. He’d wondered if he should train for it, his aching joints screaming at him at this precise moment. He was too old for this, his bent arthritic knees testament to how he was no longer designed for being in this position.
He had found a spot where he knew he could stay hidden, a place they wouldn’t see him when they come through the door. And he knew they’d come. They always came. He just hoped he wouldn’t give them away. He’d seen it happen once before, when they’d been spotted, and the hatred, confusion and vitriol directed at the guilty party was, well, shameful to say the least. There was no way he would be responsible for that. There was too much hurt afterwards, too many disappointed people. He would stay quiet. For as long as he could.
There was no way of seeing anyone else, their hiding places like his shrouded in darkness and shadows. The room had recently been lit up and the contrast between the two states had been stark to say the least. From light to darkness, from clarity to confusion. He had never liked the dark, not since his elder brother had pinned him under the bedsheets when they were kids, a torture which may have seemed like harmless japes at the time, but which stayed with him throughout his whole life. And he was back in the dark now, a sense of foreboding washing over him.
He controlled his breathing, making sure to take long, deep inhalations that were easy to silence. Shallower breaths usually emitted a sharp sound that would be clearly audible to anyone in the room, and he needed to remain incognito. He gripped the bottom of the table leg, squeezing tightly in another vain attempt to ease his fear. God, how he hated the dark, a dark that was made even worse by this deathly silence.
His ears twitched, hearing a sound from outside. Passing bus? Approaching car? He couldn’t quite make it out but knew that the end was nearing, that it would be all over soon. He was tempted to get his phone out to check the time but didn’t want the light from the screen to give him away. To give them all away. He couldn’t even conceive what the consequences of that would be.
A faint cough. Not from him, but from someone else in the room, someone else in the same position as him. QUIET, he mentally shouted at them, hoping that by some chance he had become gifted in ESP and mind-control and could actually make a difference by his thoughts. He strained again, listening for any other sounds. He could hear a dog in the distance and another vehicle passing but apart from that it was silent. Silent and dark.
His knees and back were killing him, crouched as he was in this position. Cowered might be a better word, the upper half of his body almost folded over in half, hiding his legs and feet. He was trying to make himself as small as possible, a feat that was almost impossible to achieve with his aging bones. He desperately wanted to straighten up, to move a bit to relieve the pain that was coursing throughout his whole body but being stubborn he knew there was no way he would do anything to give up his hiding place.
Footsteps. Voices. Two of them coming from the other side of the door. He held his breath one final time wondering if this was it. He heard a quick burst of laughter, almost sadistic he felt by this point, and then the tell-tale sound of a key entering a lock. The handle slowly turned, the pre-cursor he knew to the two of them entering the room.
Quick as a flash, the room was illuminated by the visitors, the man having flicked on the light switch. This was it…
“SURPRISE!!!” they all shouted as one, many of them leaping to their feet to see her stunned face. Jeff was a little slower to rise but was delighted to see how pleased his daughter was that his son-in-law had organised this surprise party for her fortieth birthday.
I’ll spare details from my comment to avoid spoilers (if possible) but the reveal is sudden, unexpected and … well, like I said, no spoilers. Damn fine story.
Couldn’t find much fault with your writing, and trust me, I looked. I think you can clean it up a bit, as you tend to get a bit superfluous, such as: The handle slowly turned, the pre-cursor he knew to the two of them entering the room. You lose the tension. We, as readers, know they are going to enter the room – you don’t need to tell us. The handle slowly turned … he cursed under his breath … come on, just open the damn door. This, in my humble opinion would have been a better way of finishing that or, nothing at all. But not the precursor to opening the door. Way too much tell. Let your readers decide.
Still, you wrote a good solid story that kept my interest and never to me revealed the reason they are hiding, Masterfully done.
A good story that does not give itself away. You could in fact have made the last word, “Surprise!”. It would still work as, at that moment, your readers would understand.
Nice stuff. Well done.
In a matter of an hour, the good dad-in-law, albeit arthritic, churns out a spooky story!
I agree, the reveal could have been bit more subtle!
by Ken Miles
I managed to miss the entire plot and story you’re telling here. I’ll give it a shot later and see if it makes any sense. Not a lot of show or tell in this one.
Sorry man. Gotta call ’em as I see ’em.
For one thing I beat Hemingway at his own game, here. THIS is the shortest story ever (not) written. Ernest’s six-word story now seems epic long, compared to this one. I was going to say six times longer, but one can’t even multiply properly by zero!
Now I hold the historical world record…
(but then there’s Juergen, who might still somehow think of something even shorter!)
You are aware that Hemingway never wrote that six word story, aren’t you? He just made that up. There is printed evidence someone else, now unknown, did it long before Hemingway said he did. We took a run at that several years ago on this site and discussed it in quite a bit of detail, and then based a series of stories on the same premise using the six words as the prompt. Some people wrote sad stories and others wrote positive ones, based on those six words. Funny, what prompts can mean to some and others run in a completely different direction.
Such as in your case. I’m just stuck in the mud sort of writer, and take the prompts literally most of the time, and am always jealous of people who come up with something so ingenious so quickly.
the title is way over the top. Too wordy. You might want to go with something like, ‘Shh.’ Or, ‘Tinggggg.’ Just a suggestion. The flashback threw me off for a moment but the good news is that there’s room for a sequel. Lots of room.
The screaming is the baby’s. Since day one. It feels like there hasn’t been a minute in the last year when he hasn’t been screaming. She’s tried everything: when he rejected her breast, formula. He took that better, but it didn’t stop the screaming. He seems hungry all the time. And tired. But he sleeps little, because he’s so hungry. The doctor said it was a phase. She changed doctors. The current one agrees. Be patient, he says. He doesn’t have to live with the little bag of screams, though.
The baby’s still screaming when her husband gets home.
“Can’t you stop that bloody racket!” he says.
“Don’t you think I’ve tried?!” she says.
He starts shouting.
“Well you haven’t tried hard enough, have you? Do your bloody job, woman!”
“You try! You’ll see!”
“I’m not its mother!”
“You’re not anything!”
He hits her. A punch. She staggers, mouth agape and bleeding. He doesn’t say sorry. He doesn’t curl his arm around her to comfort her. He stomps over to the sound system and puts on one of his heavy metal albums. Loud. To drown out the screaming.
The lead guitar shrieks, the bass throbs, the drums crash. The singer roars his unintelligible message. The baby opens his lungs to compete.
A new noise. A rhythmic pounding. On the wall. The neighbours. Pounding. Pounding.
The screaming. The music. The pounding.
She puts her hands over her ears. It shuts it all out a little, but not enough.
Her husband slumps into his armchair, foot tapping, but not in time to the music. She stands in front of him. Yells.
“Turn it off! Turn it off!”
He glares at her, eyes cold. No love there. Not anymore.
“Please!” she begs.
He gets up, goes over to the system. Turns the volume up. The predominant sound now, the screaming second, the pounding a close third.
She flees to the kitchen, slams the door behind her. The noise is muffled slightly. She puts her arms out to support herself against the counter, her head drooping, staring at the floor. No solace in the tiles. Without thinking, she turns on the coffee grinder. The whirring-screech of the machine adds a new feature to the soundscape. She switches it off immediately.
And laughs. But there’s no mirth in her laughter. She knows what to do, and not for the first time. She takes her coat, hanging on a chair, dons it and leaves.
Out in the chill evening, the bedlam seems far away, but there’s a new din: their house is under the flightpath from the airport. A large jet rumbles over and up, its engines seemingly straining to lift its massive weight. She hurries away, seeking to escape from the house and the plane; she succeeds with one, the noise from the house receding with each hurried step. But the plane’s rumble stays with her, even though it’s now high in the sky and blinking away towards its destination.
Now she feels the pain in her mouth; the cold air tells her a tooth is broken. A sharp intake of breath only makes matters worse as the air flows over the cracked molar. She quickens her step with suddenly renewed resolve.
Her road joins the High Street. Early evening pandemonium. Traffic backed up. Horns honking. The air-brakes of buses and trucks hissing malevolently.
There’s a match tonight. A group of fans bustle past her, jostling, chanting their imbecilic encouragement to their team; the game hasn’t even started yet. They march away, happy in their ugly discordance.
She reaches where she wants to be and walks down the concrete ramp, past the barrier.
The lift smells of urine and vomit. It creaks and groans as it rises, slowly, inevitably. The number 5 lights up on the display and the doors shudder open.
Up here, the commotion of the street is distant but there. The plane’s rumble is still with her, joined by the whine of a smaller plane, soaring into the evening sky. A car, moving much too fast, sweeps past her, rubber squealing as it turns at the end of the row.
Now there’s also a banging inside her head. Accompaniment to the sharp click-clack of her shoes on concrete, and the other dreadful cacophony. The banging impels her forward.
No drama here. No ‘should I?’ and lengthy hesitation. She clambers onto the parapet and steps off.
And for two or three precious seconds, the air, rushing past her ears, blows all the chaos away.
Well done, old friend, well done. Palpable tension, and, for me, a surprise ending. The surprise was she didn’t take the baby with her. Or, would that have been too much for you? Post partum depressed women usually damage others, not themselves. Of course, with the old man she has, I can understand it’s more than just baby woes.
One of the best lines ever written, IMHO, on this site: He doesn’t have to live with the little bag of screams, though.
Hit me like a punch on the chin. Excellent job. I felt like I was in an episode of ‘Calling the Midwife’ a year after one of the births, which by the way, is an excellent show. Again, IMHO, and it is definitely my wife’s favorite show on the Telly.
(Never watched a complete episode of ‘Call the Midwife’, tbh. I kind of had the idea it was strictly for women … but if you recommend it, maybe I’ll take a look!)
Well written… but you need a hug!
I feel like I need a box of puppies upended over my head (but this brought up some troubling feelings and hit personally).
They say that people like to believe that we are all in a just world, that we want things to be fair in the end and so we are attracted to concepts like justice and revenge and an eye for an eye, etc.
That is true for me when I read stories and there is a man back in the apartment that never got his, a baby left crying and worse, and just so much unfairness… but that is not your fault – that’s how things work I guess.
Just uncaring causality governs sometimes…
(Yep – for some, life’s a b*tch and then you die. Not fair, as you say.)
A wonderfully evocative story of domestic bullying, abuse. It takes a tremendous amount of angst to make a mother abandon her baby and here, your description is so graphic that you can imagine the relief, the silence, the end of all that pain.
By the by, I had a very short piece published in an anthology a couple of years ago. It was entitled, “Just another step” and it is about the despair of a man losing his job, his wife, his dignity and his home. Each part is “just another step” until he reaches the parapet of the multi-storey car park.
Your story is a far better version of that sense of despair.
Great stuff, Master Phil.
(I googled it but didn’t find it. I did find an old Ofsted report. If that’s you … retroactive congratulations!)
If you send me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org I will attach my story. It appeared in a printed anthology in Worcester in 2018 called “Sacrifice.” My first ever “success” in print.
But I can’t bear this end.
Where’s justice and fair play?
You just let that scoundrel go free with a woman having to pay the price?
Yes – no justice here … or perhaps he gains a conscience and is haunted by these events for the rest of his days?
You evoke the terror of noise in a very effective way here, Phil. Not just the noise in and of itself, but, even worse, the inescapibility from it. Well, she does find a way out in the end, but that’s hardly the most desirable way.
The urban setting is very well portrayed, both in the form of the “modern” urbane nuclear-family home (where the mother is the only female, unassisted by grandmas, aunts, greataunts and empty-nester elderly neighbours who in more traditional setting are only too happy to help out with little bags of screams) and in the noisy screetscape, with noise emanating from everywhere, including the sky. You can also add one of those abominable pneumatic hammers digging up the tarmac…
The way the noise transfoms into violence and then pain (in her mouth) is my favourite aspect of the story. That’s very well done too.
I sort of predicted the ending, way ahead (also perhaps because I had indeed read, some time ago, the step by step story from Ken Frape – I don’t remember where I read it. I thought it was in here. But maybe he had emailed it to me, but I remember it very well, as it was a very well crafted story, too. It was also from an upper deck of a car-park that the protagonist there jumped off, so I admit, I was a little bit tipped when I read ‘Blown Away’ and your woman walked into a multistorey carpark).
There is no redemption in your story, and I’m fine with that. Life is not Hollywood (good endings). It’s very much like in your story, at times. Oftentimes, alas. Hollywood style stories do us a great disservice in feeding us the illusion that justice and fairness always reign at the end of the day, in this world. But they really often don’t.
But then there is actually a little redemption: those two or three seconds of freedom (and silence), as she goes down… And the way the father is now left totally alone in dealing with the bag of screams, too.
It’s the second time in a couple of weeks that I’ve managed to ‘step’ on the toes of another writer by apparently re-treading a story they’ve done, but I promise it’s completely inadvertent … especially as I’ve never read KenF’s. (I HAD read Roy’s cemetery story, but I’d forgotten that one and any similarities were entirely subliminal.)
You are being too harsh with yourself. There is no implied suggestion from me that my toes have been trodden on and that you have retreaded a story of mine. In any case, a suicide taking place from the parapet of a tall building is hardly unique so I cannot claim ownership. My story was completely different to yours and, specifically, my subject did not jump but was rescued by his daughter.
Ken ( not trodden on or retreaded in any way) Frape.
(btw – I sent you an e-mail.)
No problems about that.
I did catch your e mail and will reply very soon.
by Ken Miles
“It’s that one nasty little word in English, that’s the cause of all of our problems! It’s the shortest, tiniest, thinnest, most hatefully disgusting word in our language…”
Anone Y. Mous, Jr. rants on, in his typical monotone, his austere face peeking out of every television screen in the country.
No-one else these days has attained such a firm presence in everyone’s living-room than Mr. Mous, longtime champion of Do-Gooders International and now presidential candidate on behalf of the Party of Absolute Gentleness and Correctness, a serious contender to both the Democrats and Republicans for the top job in the country.
“If we eliminate that one heinous word, take out from our alphabet that very one letter that constitutes it, we’ll become the Nation we’ve always wanted to be.”
He clears his throat and then goes on: “Let’s remove the word “I” from our language, the letter “i” from our alphabet! ‘I’ is the word of egoism, egocentrism. We even capitalize it! That’s the kind of importance each one of us gives to oneself! We are perilously in love with ourselves!”
He takes out a white handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his foaming mouth, and then continues, only now raising his voice a little.
“Let’s kill it! Let’s uproot the very notion of selfishness right there where it all starts, in the words we use. Let’s become better people, the people we really ought to be!”
The crowd at the Convention cheers and claps.
“No more ‘I’! No more ‘I’!” they chant as they hug one another, in an orgy of communal ardor. They all take selfie upon selfie to make sure that they will be remembered for being there on this historical day on which the self has been declared dead and a new era of communal correctness is born.
At first, it’s all voluntary – the party zealots are first to speak and write without ever using the letter ‘i’ anymore. The Correctworld Dictionary takes out the word ‘I’, and then the letter ‘i’ altogether. It rides on the popular sentiment and its sales soar. Other dictionaries follow suit soon. There is no word or letter anymore to refer to one’s own self.
People who never cared about these things soon drop their ‘i’s too. Nobody wants to sound weird. To use that vicious letter has become taboo. Only vulgar oddballs still utter ‘i’ after ‘i’. Well-meaning people don’t want to sound like them. Some punks use ‘i’s deliberately, just to annoy, to rebel. Graffiteros now spray ‘i’s in every form and color on walls in cities across the nation. The taboo clearly isn’t enough.
With President Mous now in power, the ‘i’ becomes outrightly illegal. Anyone found guilty of using ‘i’s could now face harsh pr_son sentences. We’re not tak_ng any chances, you see. The r_sks are too ser_ous.
Next to go are the exclamat_on mark, wh_ch the Party of Absolute Gentleness and Correctness des_gnated as the most outrageous symbol of anger. Then the quest_on mark goes too, for _t’s a sign of people not _n the know, an affront to conf_dence.
Fresh from all th_s success and popular_ty, the Party of Absolute Gentleness and Correctness proposes to remove another yet gr_evous word: the word that’s used when f_ngers are po_nted, the word of accusat_ons, the word at the roots of hatred. The word ‘you’ has to go.
This word def_nes master and slave – ‘you do th_s, you do that’ – and has no place _ n our c_v_l_zed gentle nat_on. For good measure, the letters “y”, “o” and “u” w_ll go too, so that no-one w_ll ever have the means to utter that hatef_l w_rd aga_n,. There’ll n_w be no viable term that separates the pers_n talk_ng from the pers_n l_sten_ng. Wh _ needs th_se three letters an_wa_ (exclamat_ _n mark rem_ved).
Next in line are ‘us’ and ‘them’ the su_rces _ f s _ m_ch tr_ _ ble and d_v_s_on _ n th _ s w _ rld. There were pr _ tests, and _ t was dec _ ded to keep ‘them’ – _ t’s an altru _ st _ c term, after all. _ t can sta _. But “us” has t_ g _.
‘He’ and ‘she’? ‘Eqalt Warrrs’ (f_rmerl_ ‘Equality Warriors’ ) want these two w _ rds that spell gender d _ scr _ m _ na t_ _ n g _ne _ nce and f _ r all.
‘He’ and ‘she’, ‘s’, ‘h’ and ‘e’ ar_ n_w unlawful and an _ on _ _ _ _ u _ _ _ th _ _ _ _ _ g _ n _ t _. All _ h _ r _ ma_n_ng l_tt_r _ _ f th _ alphab _ t w _ ll van _ _ h _ n du _ t _ m _. Mark m _ w _ rd _.
At l _ ng la _ t w _’ r _ ab _ _ l _t _ l _ p _ l _ t _ call _ c _ rr _ ct.
_ _ c _ n _ ardl _ talk an _ m _ r_.
And t _ _r _ n _ b _ _ nd _. N _ xt t _ b _ f _ rb _ dden _ s alm _ _ t _ v _ r _ _ t _ _ r l _ tt _ r. B _ a _
_ _ _ _ _ _ ll _ a _ _ a _ d _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ l n _ _ _ c _ _ _.
_ p _ _ _ _ _ d_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ v r_ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. A_ _ _ t_ _ _ k _n _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ l _ : _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .
_ _ n_ x_ _ _ p_ _ pl _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ v _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ; _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ pp _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ( _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ). _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ v _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _” _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ( _ _ ) .
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ .
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
_ _ _, _ _ _ _ _ , _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .
Th-t’s f-c–n- b-ill–n-!
Wow, I got a British schoolmaster to say the f-word himself – that’s an achievment in and of itself! Okay, okay, I know you’re not at all the prissiest British schoolmaster out there, lol. But still… 🙂
Th-t’s gr–t. W- r–ll- -nj—d th-t st-r-. — h-v- m- v-t- f-r th- m-st cr–t-v- -ppr–ch. — sh–ld wr-t- – l-ng n-v-l -b–t th- m–n-ng -f l-f-. -k!
“We really enjoyed the story”, you said?
‘We’ as in Royal Plural or whatever it’s called? (Also to avoid using the despicable tiniest, thinnest word ‘I’?)
Or do you mean the goats TOO enjoyed my story? That would be exciting for me to know that I’ve interested members of other species (more adorable than ours in many ways) in one of my stories! Haha!
Taking selfie upon selfie to celebrate the abolishment the “self”…gotta be my favourite part! 😜
Hey, say Ken not Mr.-this-or-that (or I’d call you Sir!)
True, articles and books that are infested with the (“tiniest, thinnest”) word “I” do seem uninspired, to say the least.
I (oops!) took note, as expressed in my story, of the fact that in English we even capitalize the word “I” (in self-importance?).
In other languages I (oops again!) know or have some knowledge of (Italian, French, Spanish…), the word for “I” is always written in small letters, while the word(s) for “you” are capitalized (at least in the polite form of the language). That shows quite a difference in attitude, I (oops yet again!) think…
Ken (with three I’s in a four-sentence comment!!)
It feels like speculative fiction from the 60s that has been twisted around 180 degrees, in my opinion.
But at least your story has a strong point, unlike mine!
Kudos for the superb cooking, but I am allergic to this flavoring.
Thanks again for putting forward your point, so that I got the chance to explain that!
“Where am I? What has happened?” I thought to myself.
“Darkness, soundless, senseless. And, painless.”
“It feels as if I’m floating in the black.”
“Black what?” I wonder.
How much later? There was no way of telling, but grey emerged from the centre of black. The grey circle grew slowly, but it got bigger. I could not stop it.
“Do I want it to stop?”
It grew, becoming less grey as if light broke the morning. I could see! A white ceiling stared down at me, motionless, shadowless. But something.
I could not speak. My mouth did not open. A shadow moved across the ceiling, then another. My head moved sideways. Everything was pristine white, a gurney, a cabinet, clean and shiny, empty shelves and a white wall. My head, once again staring ahead at the ceiling. But what is that? A white-coated armpit stretched across my vision. Then a talking head appeared in front of me. His lips were moving, opening and closing, not chewing, speaking.
He was talking to me, asking something. His clear perspex facial shield moved aside to be replaced with another. This time a female. She was talking too.
She signalled with her fingers, one, two, three. I tried to nod. Maybe my eyes glinted, I don’t know. As a reward, they turned me to the right.
“What is that?”
A headless body, motionless, lay relaxed.
“Where is his head,” I wondered.
Blackness swamped me.
“What happened? Was it something I did?”
The grey reappeared, spreading quicker this time. I could see again. And I could blink, not slowly and soft one eye as in a wink, but more mechanically, up and down, both eyes at once. At least I could see.
“What is that feeling?”
A mouse silently moving in my head, I have moved again. This time I could see a desk. On the wall was a clock, eleven-fifty-five, I noticed and a date. Twenty-first of the fourth month, of the two thousand and seventy-second year.
“Christ, where have I been?”
Once more they lost me in black. As if awakening, I looked at legs and a lithe body, not mine.
The two faces were mouthing at me again. Mouthing and pointing.
I nodded, Christ, I can nod?
They smiled. The female grabbed an iPad and scrawled a question.
“Can’t you hear?”
I shook my head.
The two heads bobbing in deep conversation. They helped me to a sitting position.
I had arms, legs, they moved, my fingers waggled, under my control. I smiled. Then I felt my face. It wasn’t me. Soft, rubbery, and hairless.
They were talking again, excited children on Christmas morning.
The iPad thrust in my face.
“Welcome back to the world!”
“What about my ears?” I typed.
“A hitch, we are working on it,” hastily typed.
“I thought I would be hungry or thirsty after an operation?” I typed.
“No need for food or water,” she typed.
“Look in the mirror, over there,” she pointed.
Unsteadily I wobbled from the slab, one leg in front of the other, I made my way across the room.
“No drink? No food? No sex? Can I go back to sleep?”
“No need for sleep,” she mouthed.
What was the purpose of the mirror if you aren’t going to share what the protagonist sees? I think that’s what killed the ending for some. It did for me. I was disappointed there was no reaction after seeing whatever it is that he’s supposed to see.
Still, you kept me interested. I just would have liked a more conclusive ending, even a bad one. There are so many unanswered questions, now. Which is good, but I would have liked to have seen something that didn’t leave me flat and wish there was more, instead of something leaving me wanting more because it was so good.
There is nothing wrong with your writing, grammar and punctuation and the dialogue is good too. However, I waited until the comments were in so that I could pick the brains of other readers. I have to say that, sadly, I don’t get it. Perhaps it a sci-fi genre that I don’t read or perhaps you have a cunning plan that I am not clever enough to see.
Sorry about that but, whatever you do, keep writing and educate me.
What kind of trouble can you get into with that new body, I wonder, and who can stop you?
by Ken Frape.
The Abbey’s one and only pet, Aldric the black cat, glides along the polished stone floor of the cloisters, his padded feet soundless in the late afternoon gloom. In the silence that blankets St. Barnabus Abbey the monk who walks beside Aldric also makes no sound, his feet on the cold floor cushioned by soft woolen socks, his one and only luxury. The monk, Brother Absolom, is deep in contemplation, his hands thrust inside the folds of his cloak and his face, inside his cowl, hidden in shadow. His brow is furrowed in concentration, or perhaps concern.
Brother Absolom is wrestling with a problem that has been on his mind for months. The Abbey of St. Barnabus is a silent order. Voices are only raised towards Heaven in the singing of hymns in the chapel. It is Lent, a time for sacrifice when the remnants of food in the larder must be used up before a period of abstinence. At this time, any monk but only one monk, may request to speak to the gathered brothers regarding any matter of concern. Brother Absolom has made it known to The Abbott that he wishes to speak. That decision is making him sick with worry. His prayers have not helped so he has placed himself in God’s hands.
In the refectory, there is very little of the clink and clatter associated with cutlery and crockery being used. A single cough echoes around the cavernous, rising in the high ceilinged hall, like a bird seeking escape. The silence of no spoken words seems to permeate every aspect of the brothers’ lives. Except that this day is special and every robed brother in the refectory is aware that Brother Absolom has been granted the opportunity to speak. No monk has asked for this for the past seven years and whilst the brothers are both surprised and puzzled not one of them is even thinking of leaving until he has heard the words.
Brother Absolom has taken his usual seat and Aldric has taken his, curled up around his warmly-socked feet. Once the midday meal has been eaten the dishes and plates and cutlery are washed and stacked for the next meal. It is a smooth and practiced process, as ingrained as Matins or Compline. The brothers have returned to their seats once more, their hands resting in their laps, their eyes looking down but their ears are focused upon Brother Absolom. Even Aldric joins in, springing lightly onto the window sill, watching the kind and gentle brother who adopted him as a stray kitten three years ago.
Abbott Anselm looks towards Absolom and gives him a brief nod. Absolom swallows quickly, sweat beading his brow. His voice cracks at first as he starts to say the words he has rehearsed so many times in his cell. He clears his throat and starts again, his voice thin and reedy,
“Abbott Anselm, fellow brothers, it pains me to have to speak even one word but in all conscience, I have to tell you that Brother Michael has not been sharing out the porridge portions evenly and without favour.”
As Absolom sits, hands in his lap, Aldric scurries off to the kitchen, suddenly more interested in his own lunch. If it is possible, the silence deepens and several pairs of eyes even turn towards the rotund figure of Brother Michael, the server, his tonsure gleaming as always like a polished bowling ball. He remains seated, head down, still, until, at a signal from the Abbott, all the brothers leave, one by one, to afternoon work. It is as if a stone has been dropped into a pool and now the ripples have disappeared. But still waters run deep. As the monks file out Aldric scurries out to take his place once more by Brother Absolom’s side.
Brother Absolom’s words remain imprinted in the minds of the monks as the year rolls on, their daily routine unchanged, unchallenged, never faltering. They know that such an accusation, as indeed that was what it was, will almost certainly provoke a response. As Lent approaches once again, the silent Chinese whisper tells all that Brother Michael has asked to speak. Thus, exactly one year later Brother Michael stands in the presence of the assembled brothers. He runs a hand over his shiny pate and the other around his ample stomach, his eyes wide and anxious.
“That is not true,” he says in the deep baritone voice that others have only heard in choir. “I always give everyone the same, equal and fair share.”
Abbott Anselm recognizes that he now has a problem that will require much prayer and contemplation. Each of the two brothers will want to speak again, as is their right unless another brother asks first but as the year progresses, no one does. Thus, a year later, Brother Absolom repeats his accusation and a year later, Brother Michael repeats his plea of innocence as Eldric sits and listens with the brothers.
Times passes slowly as the seasons turn and turnabout and the monks’ lives follow the same patterns as they always have but they can all count and they all know that fifteen years have passed since Brother Absolom first stood to speak. Thus, the sense of excitement is palpable as the news circulates that it will not be Brother Michael repeating his defence but another brother has asked to speak.
No one has ever heard Brother Celestus speak. Even in choir his voice does not ascend the heights of the other voices and those who choose to look closely might even determine that he was miming. But he does have a voice.
“Abbott Anselm, fellow brothers, it saddens me to tell you that I have decided that I must give up Holy Orders and leave this monastery.” He sits.
This is a rare and shocking announcement. Monks very rarely leave The Abbey unless in a wooden box. If this was anything other than a silent order, there would be a ripple of conversation in the refectory but in this Abbey, their response must be silence.
The following year, Abbott Anselm takes the most unusual, nay, unprecedented step of letting it be known that he, The Abbott, intends to speak.
“Brother Celestus, your words sadden me,” the Abbott begins. “ Your presence here for the past thirty years has become part of the fabric of our community. Your writings in the scriptorium with the illustrated texts are indeed works of art, praise God. Can you tell us, your fellow brothers, the reason why you must leave us?”
One more year passes and Brother Celestus rises wearily to his feet once more, his ancient knees creaking with age. Aldric remains curled up at Brother Absolom’s warm feet. He feels the cold more and his eyesight has dimmed so that he rarely catches any mice these days. He opens one eye briefly as Brother Celestus’ voice is heard as he says,
“Abbott Anselm, I ask for your blessing and permission to leave. The reason I must leave is that I cannot stand this constant bickering.”
Thanks for your comment upon my tongue-in-cheek story.
I think this is my favorite so far and you tied it all together with a good joke.
A well done version of one of my all time favorite jokes. Along with this gem: Without elaborating as you so excellently did, it’s the story of the monk, Brother John, who after 50 years of service to the monastery is allowed to spend his remaining years in the tower in complete and absolute silence studying the very religion to which he had devoted his life. For 20 years, and nearing the end, tired, old and frail, he studied diligently never ever uttering a single sound. Not even a cough. Then, late one evening, the monks in the monastery heard a terrible scream. “NOOOOOOOO!” from the tower. After not hearing a sound for 20 years they feared the worst. They all rushed to the tower where they found Brother John holding an ancient manuscript. “WHAT IS IT?” they shouted in unison. Tears in his eyes, Brother John held up the manuscript and said, “IT’S NOT CELIBATE – IT’S CELEBRATE!”
I almost succumbed to doing this joke as you did, since I could have invoked the “Silence” prompt, but thought I would spare the group. But, I have others, and there are other prompts in the future. Just fair warning.
Well done, Ken F. and it was nice to see a bit of fluff on these pages, especially after reading the story by Phil Town, which sent me into a fugue. Now I have to start thinking how I can remake my other jokes into stories. Hmmmm….
Thanks for that. I had forgotten about the celibate / celebrate joke but it is a good one. In this instance, I felt that I had been quite serious recently ( blame Covid) so I thought I might try something different. Obviously, I had to pad things out a bit.
Loved “The Silent Treatment” and in fact, if my judgement is worth a jot, it will come top or very near the top. It should.
Your story did transport me to the fabulously silent world of cloistered monks. Aldric’s soft paws and Absolom’s soft socks treading silently along the smooth tiles of the monastry is so evocative – just that bit sets the whole scenery (visual and aural) of the story. It’s great in its effective simplicity.
But then we get to find out that this silent world is not as peaceful as we originally thought it was. There is intrigue there, too, like elsewhere in the world. The way controversies are discussed over the years: a comment is made and then has to wait for a whole year to get a reply, evokes both the peacefulness of this setting but also a certain nervousness in having to wait things out for so long. Well, that tension did flip out Brother Celestus in the end.
That ending came as a pleasant surprise to me. I was on a detective trail to find out what happened to the missing porridge (I think cat Aldric had to do something with that!), but instead you totally misdirected me towards a totally different and pleasantly humorous (but also sad in some ways) outcome.
Well done! It’s a story with palpable underlying tension and a continuous thread of humour throughout. Happily married to one another.
The monks’ way of life (particularly their instant-messaging system with 365-day delays!) is an elegant antitode to our hyperconnected world that is Zucking out the life juices from many people nowadays…
Btw. I mentioned you in my comment to Phil’s story “Blown Away”, above. I thought I’d let you know…
Thanks for your kind words and yes, I did see your other comment to Phil. I just tracked back in the files and realised that I did a longer version for this site under the prompt “Weathering the storm.” My piece was called “Just another step” and it placed 2nd.
I spent ages on this site yesterday intending to write reasonably detailed comments upon each story. Sadly, the system kept freezing until I had to call it a night. It can be a real time-consuming task to read and write positive critiques but I’m sure we all see how useful this is for most of us as we strive to write and improve our writing.
An awkward silence unfolded between them. Polly hadn’t meant to drop the bombshell this early on in their meeting, but her resolve snapped the moment she saw Dexter enter the restaurant. She recognised him instantly. That same self-assured swagger. The same smarmy smile at the waitress showing him to his table.
His eyes lit up as he approached her. ‘You must be Polly. Hi, I’m Dexter.’ He held his hand out to shake hers.
‘Hi,’ she said, hoping her nerves didn’t show.
She studied him as he took his jacket off, shook out the creases and placed it on the back of his chair before sitting down. His hair was greying around the temples, there were a few wrinkles around his eyes, and he was bulging out of his shirt in a way he hadn’t done thirty years ago, but otherwise he had changed very little.
He poured himself a glass of red wine without asking if she minded. She found his confidence galling.
‘So, Polly. I guess this is where we tell each other something interesting about ourselves and see if the computer was right. Ladies first.’
She took a large gulp of wine. ‘We’ve met before.’
‘Oh? Have we? Well, you definitely have the advantage over me there. I don’t want to seem rude, but you might need to give me a clue. Don’t take it personally, I’m just useless at putting faces to names.’
‘We knew each other at school.’
‘Really? God, that’s going back a bit. Are you sure?’
‘Yes. How many Dexter Zolinskis are there?’
‘True. I still don’t…’
Polly gripped her wine glass and fixed him with her steely blue eyes ‘Roly Poly Polly. How’s that for a clue? I think you were the creative genius who came up with that highly original nickname. Hats off to you though, it stuck. Remember me now?’
Dexter shifted in his seat. Polly enjoyed watching him squirm as the silence settled between them. She was an introvert and comfortable with silence. Dexter on the other hand, was nowhere as near comfortable with it. He looked away, fiddled with his shirt sleeves, loosened his tie, and ran his hand through his hair, but to his credit, he blushed.
‘I didn’t recognise you. I mean…Sorry. That wasn’t the best thing to say. I’ve never been known for my tact.’ He paused and took a large gulp of wine. ‘Jeez Polly, what can I say? I’m sorry, truly I am, but that was so long ago. I was a cocky teenager and probably said lots of things to lots of people, not just you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing it, but I was a different person back then. We all were.’
‘Don’t worry about it. You probably did me a favour.’
‘If it hadn’t been for you bringing my fatness to everyone’s attention and humiliating me so publicly, I might never have done anything about it. So, cheers for that.’ She raised her glass to him.
Her cheeks burned and her insides churned at the memory of the taunting. The jeering. The cutting remarks. As a child she had developed a coping mechanism of staying in the background and had managed to go virtually unnoticed amongst her peers, until year five, when Dexter Zolinski, the most popular boy at school had noticed her. Most girls would have been flattered.
‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it I suppose. You look fantastic by the way. I really wouldn’t have recognised you.’
She hated these back-handed compliments. You look so much better. You always had such a bonny face. Even her own father had said I always knew there was a thin lass waiting to get out. Ironically, she was also addicted to them. Where once she was addicted to food, she now thrived on expressions of admiration on her fantastic achievement and appearance. She felt disappointment when none where forthcoming and resolved to try harder. Eat less. Do more exercise. Make people notice.
‘So. What now?’ Dexter broke the silence. ‘I’m guessing this date isn’t just a good computer match? Is it some sort of revenge thing?’
‘No! It was pure co-incidence that your name popped up. Obviously, I knew it was you and I was curious, that’s all. It’s no big deal,’ she lied. This wasn’t about revenge. This was about looking her tormentor in the eye and making her own peace. She’d read about it somewhere, although right now, inner peace felt a long way off.
‘Let’s order some food. I’m starving.’ She changed the subject.
Dexter relaxed and signalled for the waitress. ‘Sounds good to me.’
‘I’ll have the fish and chips, mushy peas and bread and butter, with sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream to follow,’ Polly told the waitress.
Dexter started to say something but stopped himself mid-sentence. ‘I’ll have the same thanks.’ He refilled their wine glasses.
Polly ate quietly, focussing on the mechanical process of eating. She cut her food into small chunks and chewed each mouthful ten times before swallowing. Her stomach heaved as the heavy, greasy food mixed with the wine. The first few mouthfuls were always the most difficult, but she knew, if she took her time, she could force more down. She would deal with it later.
Dexter didn’t seem to notice. He droned on about himself, his work, his hobbies, occasionally pausing to check if she was listening. Polly had a mastered the art of zoning out of a conversation whilst appearing to listen.
‘Polly?’ She looked up to see Dexter staring at her. ‘If you don’t mind me asking, how did you err…?’
‘Lose all the weight?’ She knew what he was getting at. Where she had once eaten in secret, she now took great pleasure in eating copious amounts of food in public. She enjoyed remarks such as Where do you put it all? A tiny thing like you. You’re one of those lucky people who can eat whatever they like.
‘Ate less, moved more.’ She drained her glass.
‘Right. Err…Another wine? Or how about a coffee?’
She shook her head. ‘I have an early meeting at work tomorrow. I need to get back.’
‘Okay. Well maybe we can do this again?’
She stood up and gathered her jacket and handbag from her chair. ‘I’m not sure Dexter. Maybe. I need go.’ She left him to pay the bill as she headed out to hail a taxi.
The voices started as soon as she stepped into the cool, stillness of her flat. You’re pathetic. A failure. You’ll get fat. You can’t even diet properly.
She reached the bathroom just in time. The saliva rushed into her mouth and she felt relief wash over her as she vomited every last morsel of food she had consumed earlier.
She washed her mouth out with water and set the timer on her phone for thirty minutes, when she could safely brush her teeth. She noticed the message on her phone.
Well, that was different. Fancy meeting up next week? D
She blocked the number, deleted it from her contacts and lay down on top of her bed. The voices silenced for the moment.
I think if you’d made him a bit more of an asshole now, and instead of apologizing, he remained his arrogant self, I might have been more in tune with the story. Good plot, just would have liked a different ending.
If it isn’t semi-autobiographical, you did an excellent job of the protagonist’s feelings, without having been there to live it.
This is a very well written story that highlights the damage that so many people live with after being bullied at school. I hope it is not autobiographical but it reads very well. It has such a ring of authenticity.
I can see how it might have added something else to the story if Dexter had been a real rat but I guess in real life much of the teasing and the nasty comments that go on are thoughtless rather than vindictive. Do school bullies and the like actually intend to cause a lifetime of pain to their victims? And then of course, there are the hangers-on who ape the behaviour of the cool kids and aren’t strong enough to stand up and say, “this is wrong.”
Good writing that tackles a real issue.
She had problems, but I understood everything she did and why… I guess I was comfortable with her shadiness.
The voices made me curious and wanting more – I could enjoy Polly really rubbing it in for a long line of hopeless suitors!
I liked the pace of this story, and the way it’s rendered. The style of writing is very readable and enjoyable and both the plot and the dialogue score high points on being realistic (I think this is going to be a serious contender for our Best Dialogue Oscar this week!).
I have no issue with the fact that Polly is not delivered from her life-tragedy by the end of your story. I don’t like it when stories are simply glossed over and given a positive ending just for the sake of it. Because in real life it’s not like that – real people don’t always resolve their problems. Life is not a Hollywood movie.
I’m not sure about the revenge, though. True, Polly cancelled Dexter from her life, but that’s hardly vindictive compared to the lifelong damage he (and others) inflicted upon her. He’ll simply date someone else. Not that revenge is necessary in this story, mind you. It’s fine as it is. But then, the title is misleading.
I’d also separate the paragraphs, if I were you. It would be easier to read with more white breathing space between the dialogue bits. I know, sometimes WordPress doesn’t respect Word formatting, and one has to separate paragraphs again after posting. It’s a pain, but worth the effort, I think.
At first, I wanted to scream out but did not. I wanted to tell someone what had happened. For some reason, I never did. Now I do not regret.
The painful secret was hidden deep. It ate at my soul. Despite trying to stifle the ache and to push the pain into some hidden recess of my mind, it tended to burst into my consciousness. A putrid pus that poured from my soul – a lanced boil that spoilt the flesh on which it spilled. I cleansed my body daily. Frequently.
This is my story.
I was five years old when he first came into my room. A little girl. Mummy was sick, so I had to go to my Uncle John and Aunty Jillian’s house. Daddy was busy working. Uncle John and Aunty Jillian did not have any little boys and girls. They had no children. So, it was natural that Aunty Jillian who was Mummy’s sister would take me and my baby brother Tom in to care for us. It helped Daddy who was working very hard in the mines up at Mount Isa to support us all and pay for all Mummy’s treatment.
After Tom was born, Mummy was crying a lot. She was not the happy Mummy we used to have. She was very angry all the time. She never hurt me or Tom. But she did smack her head on the wall so much that it bled. I used to think that must hurt a lot. Why is Mummy doing that? I sometimes tried to stop her. I would grab her hand and say to her “Don’t Mummy, stop. Please, hit me Mummy, your head is bleeding. It’s hurt. Don’t hit you any more.” Sometimes she would stop and just stare at me for a long time. Other times she just pushed me away. Then she would bang, bang her head on the wall again. I would go and cuddle Tom till she stopped. She would then go to sleep and wake up ok sometimes.
The last time I saw her she was covered in blood. She had cut herself. Yes, it was with a big knife that daddy used to cut the roast leg of lamb at dinner. Daddy said it was an accident. I don’t know. All that blood -it was scary though.
The first time.
I remember the door creaked as he entered. I was not quite asleep. He did not switch the light on.
“Sally, sweetheart, I just came in to see if you were alright.” He sat on the bed near my pillow. His hand went over my back. I was sleeping on my stomach. He caressed my back first on top of my pajamas. Then he slipped his hand under my PJs and started to stroke my skin gently. I did not feel uncomfortable, but then he slipped his hand under my body and started to circle his hands around my chest and move them down to my tummy. Then further down…
“Don’t. Don’t.” He put the finger of his free hand to his lips.
“Shhh, Sally. Uncle John’s just helping you sleep. You’ll feel better in a moment.”
His finger was hard. It hurt me in my wee wee place. I put my hands down and I tried to push it away. But he swiftly turned me over on my stomach and put his hand over my mouth.
“Shush sweet little girl, be a good little girl. You will feel better in a minute. This is our secret.”
As he said “This is our secret.” He moved his face closer to mine until his nose was nearly touching mine. “Our secret. Tell no one. Or…YOU will die. Mummy and Daddy will die. Your little brother will die.” Then his hand moved down again. And it hurt. God, it hurt me. Pain like a fire in between my legs. Tears spilled over my cheeks.
“Shhhhh, hush baby all over in a minute.” Then he undid his pajama pants and placed the towel he had over his shoulder on his lap.
He leaned in and whispered in my ear.
“I’m going to let you touch something special.” He took my hand and placed it on something hard. Soft skin. It began to pulse. I began to sob more.
“Don’t. Please don’t.” I cried a sobbing whisper. “NO!”
“Shush, shhshshhhhhh.” He began to pant and suddenly there was wetness and he groaned. He used the towel to wipe up the wetness and then stood up to close his pajamas.
Then he gently leaned down to kiss me.
“Thank you, little Sally. You are a good, good little girl. Our secret. Remember.”
I wanted to claw his face. Kick his nose. Spit in his face. He hurt me. He disgusted me. I felt dirty like rubbish. Instead, I lay like a dead thing. Silence began to soak into my soul. Silence leaked into my mind. I wanted to scream. Instead, I lay in shocked and inconsolable silence.
The next morning.
I was sore. I did not sleep well. I went downstairs to breakfast.
“Sally, are you ok?” Aunt Jillian looked at me, concern etched over her face. She put up her hand to feel my forehead. “You have dark rings under your eyes. Didn’t you sleep well my pet?”
I nodded glumly.
“Well, let’s get you some breakfast. Then, you’ll go back to bed. Maybe you’re coming down with something?”
Uncle John came in dressed for his day at the office.
“Well, how’s our favourite girl this morning?” He came up to the table and tweaked my ear playfully. I wanted to slap his hand away and scream “Don’t touch me. NEVER EVER AGAIN!”
Instead, I put my head down avoiding his eyes. Those knowing, mocking eyes. I hated him. Shame and disgust burned within, eating me up inside. I was a kangaroo caught in a hunter’s spotlight. Blinded and helpless. Silent prey.
Then it did not finish. He came often into my room, after all were asleep. Aunty Jillian, I found out, often took sleeping pills. I am sure Uncle John slipped her extra on the nights he entered my room. She never woke.
When I was nine and a half years old. I took a sharp boning knife from the kitchen into my room and slipped it under my pillow. I waited for when I knew he would come.
I waited until he was sitting on the bed having undone his pajama pants, his erection already visible such was his anticipation. Then as he was busy his hands already between my legs, I pulled the knife out and stuck it into his penis. He shot back off the bed, his penis already flaccid and bleeding. He was gasping in pain and shock. His eyes wild he looked at me.
“Sally, put the knife down.”
“No, I said, half out of the bed. “Touch me again. I will cut it off.” But I smiled sweetly, my eyes cold. “Our secret. Never touch me again. EVER!”
So now there is silence between us. He knows and I know. I will keep the knife under my pillow forever.
This story is very realistic in a lot of ways and it isn’t really designed for escapism because it shows you an ugly part of the universe that no one wants to face – but I must admit that I enjoyed the small revenge she managed.
That movie “Hard Candy” can eat its heart out…
I have a larval form of a story that is a little bit like this and it has been floating in my head for the past few years because it addresses a real issue but using sci fi…. but I am too scared to release it from my mind.
I’ve been a fan of yours since 2014 and you seldom fail to elicit a gut response from when you write this type of story. Not sure how much of it is autobiographical, but I’m fairly sure a good many of them, as this one just might be, are. No problem at all with the writing. Good job and will be in consideration for my top story.
And yes there is always the question of trust that very few overcome. It’s subtle but present in any future relationship.
I dealt with abuse by a woman called Nancy who was supposed to be caring for my late brother Christopher and myself. I was four and my brother was two. My
Mother was 145 kms away giving birth to my younger brother.my mother probably suffered post natal depression and only formed a bond with the youngest of us three children. She was a victim of sexual abuse in foster homes in Austria I now believe which accounts for her narcissistic behaviour and inability to bond with my late brother and me. Plus there were other issues and too much to go into here.
I am a rape survivor not a victim, but Mum said to me “It’s your own fault because …. and she would reel off a list of things that made anything that happened to me somehow “your own fault because …” so I used to think I was this utterly unloveable, horrid person. Even after an accident on a motorbike when I spent several months in hospital with a badly smashed leg she would not let me come home to her and dad to recuperate after getting out of hospital. I had to go back to the CWA hostel in Charleville until I could rent a house and also went back to work. I used to go to work on crutches about a kilometre and a half. Because of the rape which happened on the 23 rd of August 1977 the rapist and his friends often drove their cars jeering and pretending they were going to drive me over. Leaning out of their cars calling me names. I learnt to put my head down and concentrate on putting every effort into getting to work and ignoring their taunts. I spent quite a bit of time emotionally frozen. I guess that is how I coped putting myself in a different time and space. Similar to some childhood abuse survivors
a gripping tale
A wonderfully honest and graphic piece of writing. I just wish that such a story didn’t need to be told but sadly, it does.
Here, once again, you give us a piece that demonstrates the worst of human nature in such realistic and (alas) not-far-from-the-truth way.
The revenge of the little girl is well-received (by the reader), even if it’s brutal. The uncle will have to explain away to the doctor (and to his wife) what happened to his manhood. He was chopping vegetables and the knife slipped? That’s if the girl kept the secret. Which I don’t think she will forever…
I think that the story does give the impression that it’s being recounted by an adult. I hear that very young victims of such abuse understand much less of what is going than the character in your story does. With no real knowledge of sexuality, they believe that what is happening to them is normal and even appreciable. Only when they grow up they realize it was abominable. And that adds another layer to the tragedy.
This story may gain more depth if that aspect is improved upon (the girl tries to enjoy what’s happening to her, the friendly intimate advances of her uncle. When she faces difficulty in appreciating the pain and confusion, she tries again… it can’t be that her uncle is a bad person… until it eventually dawns on her – and then the knife finally comes in…). As it is, I feel more of an adult’s rage in this story, than a child’s innocent and confused attempt to understand and tragically assimilate what is going on. But that’s just my opinion, of course.
Incidentally, I once wrote a story along those lines (it appeared here for the ‘Travel in the Night’ prompt about a year and a half ago). The molested child “Cookie” may have felt like being the priest’s favored boy, but, as a grown up, he then knows that he had been abused and delivers his ultimate revenge to his molester.
Nothingness, that’s how- nothingness is a funny word, isn’t it, wait, don’t answer that, I have to stop distracting myself, I’m going off on tangents like it’s nobody’s business, tangents is a funny- stop, get back on track, my mind is empty, searching for an idea to break the silence, yet day after day I find myself without words, I suppose that’s why my attention is stolen so easily, I’m so desperate that I’ll happily follow any mental tumbleweed that rolls past, I fruitlessly have a staring contest with my screen, the word “silence” glaring at me in bold font, for some reason, I still believe that just staring at the word will incite an idea, it may work for others, but my ideas are never forced like that, it’s always spontaneous, and it’s terrific, you know, it usually works, but not this time, the prompt is intent on beating me, sometimes it plays out in my head like an orchestra, an improvised symphony that refuses to stop, lest it lose the very thing that makes it a story, creativity, now, truth be told, my thoughts aren’t ever hushed, or muted, there’s constantly cogs whirring and tiny hamsters spinning in their wheels, unfortunately, the cogs and hamsters in no way assist the thought process, since the focus craves anything except a story, so it feels silent, alone, almost, I need a story, at least a half-formed plot, or a character to branch off from, while the blank Word Document mocks me, my hamsters are using Google Maps to see how long it would take me if I were to walk to the capital city of Azerbaijan, it’s called Baku, and if you’re curious, it’s just above nine hundred hours, although unsurprisingly I’d need some form of water travel, does it still count as walking if I take a ferry, not the point, where was I, ah, my hamsters, I fight for control of my mind, only wanting to enter a story for this prompt, personally, it doesn’t seem like too much of an ask; the hamsters are not a huge fan of it, I’ve overdone the hamster analogy, haven’t I, and I lost the cogs about ten sentences ago, perhaps taking a break would help, a few minutes of silence to refresh the mind, a slow stroll around the house, might pick up an orange or two for fuel, take a quick trip to the toilet, say hello to my brother, hello brother, alright, that’s definitely enough, I reckon it’s time to have another crack at this, let’s get back to the computer, why did I open a Word Document, I’m not doing my essays until tomorrow, so it can’t have been that, oh well, it’ll come to me sooner or later, for now I’ll just log off- the story, but I’ve got nothing to write about, I asked my friend, to no avail, as they said I should just write about college or something, clearly not an experienced writer, though I can’t judge if I’m being honest, it’s just gone silent, there’s not a single darned idea floating around this head of mine, actually, floating would be generous, floating suggests existence above water, most of them merely swim, like an endless breaststroke or butterfly, they may seriously be the only two swimming styles I know, that’s embarrassing, give me a second, I’ll get one eventually, backstroke, truthfully, there’s a lot more strokes than I expected, anyway, the story, I’m thinking something along the lines of… damn, I really thought that maybe starting that sentence would produce an idea, but never mind, how do I describe it, it’s like a void, no sign of life, pure hollowness, nothingness, that’s how- nothingness is a funny word isn’t it…
My friends would always get mad when we worked on creative projects together – I once tried to get them to make a demo of a game with a werewolf who was a pilot in a spaceship… it made no sense because there is no lunar cycle in space and it would get really confusing….plus there is no advantage to being a rampaging monster when you are trying to dock with a space station or something….my point being that I have fantastically awful ideas all the time, I can write them down, but it will only be good for bad comedy and kindling!
Someone else has already noticed stream of consciousness writing, and I did notice it was all done without any periods, just commas to break up the thoughts, although I’m not sure it needed any of those, and I did notice it was funny, but not ha-ha funny, just strange and weird funny, so all in all, a good job of writing, and who’s to say it won’t be considered to be in the top five, and I’ve discovered I like this comma stuff …having said all that, is nothingness silence?
I really relate to this piece of writing.
Going back a few months before Christmas we were given a prompt about a 20th. Reunion and I could not get anything down on paper so I wrote a load of stuff about that and called it “Who killed Doris?”
Really with you on this one but battle on my friend into the future where lots of creative energy is to be found.
I like the stream-of-cosciousness style you applied here. Quite expertly, actually.
Just wondering why my name isn’t next to my story? Is there a message inherent in that?
No message other than bad html when I copied and pasted!!
Fixed now. 🙂
“So here’s the thing John”, Kathy was rehearsing what she would say finally, “I saw you last night, you didn’t know I was there, but I was.”
Kathy lay there for a little longer thinking, and decided that was too harsh. John did know she was there he just didn’t know she heard him. She thought it had been a very long time since they had an actual conversation. Oh sure, he talked a lot but was always talking at her, not interested in what she had to say.
She awoke with a start, it was dark, she had fallen asleep and wasn’t sure what she had done all day. There was a vague memory of her friend Marsha stopping in, but she was on her way to work and didn’t stay long. She wondered about dinner but realized she didn’t have any hunger so why bother.
In the morning John came into her room already dressed for his shift at the Station. He was the second in charge at Oakley Fire and had 48 hour shifts. Although it seemed he was working more lately as their time together was limited.
“Babe”, I’m being deployed to a wildfire up north, probably at least 2 weeks, I’ve talked to Marsha and she knows and will help take care of things.” As he walked to the door he turned and said, “I just wish you could tell me what’s on your mind, this silence is so frustrating.”
Kathy didn’t react, she tried to contain her anger and counted all the times she wanted to tell him exactly what she was thinking and he would just leave before she got the words out. The anger was at how unfair it was that he just walked away and never gave her a chance to respond.
There was a rap on the door, and Marsha opened the door and said. “hey kiddo, how’s it going? The Lilacs are blooming and I know how much you love them so brought you a bunch for you to enjoy.” Marsha talked really fast and it was difficult to get a word in edgewise. Not that it mattered to Marsha she never had paid attention to anyone else’s views on anything so why bother.
“I’ve got to go my kids are waiting for me to pick them up, I’ll come by tomorrow.” Marsha blew a kiss as she walked away.
It’s funny how time passes when you’re not really paying attention. Most of my life my time was precious, always having too much to do and not enough time to get it done. But now it just seems to here and then gone..time is so fleeting, I barely remember what I did yesterday.
With a start, Kathy wondered, “what did I do yesterday? I can’t even remember the day flew by so fast.” Her thoughts continued and she realized she couldn’t remember what grade Penny or Buster were in, possibly 5th or 6th. She and John hadn’t really talked in a long time and he hasn’t mentioned the kids … probably a good thing as they so often argued about their activities.
Buster wanted to play Football and she was opposed to it. Maybe Soccer but even that wasn’t good for head injuries. All the news recently about the damage to football players brain was very disturbing and she would never understand why that was still a sport kids were allowed to play.
As for Penny she was just a tomboy, never interested in being ‘pretty in pink’ and really spent more time with John than Kathy … “Daddy’s little girl”. She wondered why she didn’t have a clearer picture of what they were doing everyday. It seemed really strange, she felt so out of touch with things because one rule they all pretty much abided by was dinner. They had family dinner at least 4 nights a week where they all ate at the dining table, no phones or distractions and talked to each other.
The last meal she remembered was not the best, Buster was upset cause he’s approaching Junior high and Cub Football starts for those who aspired and the same old “why not”? the school says its okay…what’s wrong with you Mom?” from Buster … and then Penny burst into tears… stands up from the table and cry, “everyone is so obsessed about protecting Buster… but what about me … you don’t care what happens to me!” and runs out the front door, John went after her and Buster and I just looked at each other mouths agape.
I did know what to do, I told Buster to get his coat and I got the car keys, John and Penny were on the front lawn still arguing, “Come on guys get in the car we’re going down to Smoothieville for some ice cream and shakes with lots of whipped cream”. The old family fixit, always worked whatever the problem, everyone getting ice cream usually ended up with laughter and the end of the tension. But this time John said, “you go, I need a break.”
I remember the ride to Smoothieville, quiet no on talking and then Penny said, “Mom I need to tell you something about Dad.”
My heart stopped I knew what it was going to be… Daddy’s Little Girl wasn’t so little anymore, my worst fears were coming to fruition. My hands tightened on the steering wheel… I looked at Penny in the rear view mirror, her eyes met mine and I knew … I looked back at the road as the gas tanker truck crossed through the intersection looming in our windshield before our car slammed into the middle of the tank.
John opened the door and walked in, “hey babe how you doing today? I worked an extra shift and didn’t get by yesterday”.
Kathy knew he wasn’t really interested as he turned his attention to Marsha who came into the room.
“How’s she doing today?” he asked Marsha.
“The usual a few groans and restless legs, but no move to consciousness” replied Marsha.
John said with a sigh, “I almost hope she doesn’t come around, it’s been four years, she may never have to know the kids were killed instantly in the crash”.
There was only silence in Kathy’s mind.
That’s the beauty of good writing. Letting the readers decide what the characters are thinking is far more powerful when you pull it off, than when you put your thoughts in their minds, and leave the reader thinking, well, why did the character say that. Well done, I sincerely mean that.
I expected one twist or action scene – but I felt like there were really three moments of very intense emotion…. the beginning sentence, the ending sentence, and the bit with the Mom and daughter sharing a look…
This story was another one that was difficult for me to finish because… well, I must be feeling sensitive with of all this isolation and drama… I could hear creepy music playing in the background as soon as you mentioned smoothies and I could feel the direction it was tugging, but I didn’t want to read the actual words that would make my suspicions come true.
Great work once again!
A really good piece of writing that very cleverly holds back on the punch until the very end.
No critique needed and this will be very high on my voting.
This is one of those stories I wish I’d written myself!
The reveals are gradual and insightful, putting us into the picture naturally, without disturbing the growing sense of suspense.
I was a bit confused, though, by the first person narration, not quite getting who was talking (thinking) there.
The ending and final reveal is a masterstroke that wraps up the whole drama of this story very nicely (I mean nicely in the sense of a well-told story – but it’s a horrible tragedy you’re recounting there, of course)
So incredibly sad.
Really liked your story and the character build up.
By John Mansfield
Word Count: 1199
Silence? Thanks to this incessant tinnitus and the urban sprawl that has engulfed my humble domicile, I doubt that I will ever enjoy it again. But it is manageable, and I find that the white noise is soothing. It almost sounds like distant crickets, with a little imagination.
No, not the sirens and traffic. I meant this infernal, internal buzzing that has plagued me for years now…ever since the incident in the mines…they should have heeded my warning on that fateful day so long ago now…
But you must be on your way, posthaste! You are young and free and not fettered by arthritis or the tattered remnants of your dead dreams. Go! Run joyously about and frolic! I thank you for fixing that contraption for me and I wish you well, but you have no time to hear the sad story of a tired old man…. doomed to wither away alone in this damnable isolation…. with not a soul to share the burden of his cautionary tale…. flopping and flailing in the mire of his own misery like a decrepit and diseased swine-person – oh do please take a seat – and whatever changed your mind?
As I was saying, what was I saying? The mines! Ah yes, the mines- watch yourself not to lean back too far in that and mind the knickknacks please good fellow – a dank hole lined with sharp rocks and filled to the brim with toxic powders, but it kept me paid and fed and I never had trouble sleeping a night in my life, until the incident of course.
Spot of ale? I knew I detected the glint of fine taste in your eyes!
Yes, the mines: a wretched crevice squirming with all manner of vermin and loathsome troglodytes, and that was just us miners! I kid, but we really were an uncouth lot. Maybe some of us deserved what happened, when you get right down to it, but boys will be boys, am I right?
Now that was debauchery! Pounding away with our picks by day and getting into scraps at the bar all night! And the ladies – but what is that incredulous look for?
Do you doubt that my hunched form once towered, that my atrophied muscles once heaved? Or is it my flowery speech? Does it not fit the stereotype contrived by society for those who labor in the dark like so many tommyknockers, for those who breathe deep the foulness of the earth with perforated lungs just to plunder its treasures for the beautiful, sheltered, THANKLESS masses above?
But there is my temper, always flaring up, even in my advanced age! Forgive my outburst and have another glass, you have more than earned it, humoring me the way you are!
Where was I? Thankless masses? No – ah yes, the dire warning and the failure to heed it and so forth…that is right! So…
It got heated when Johnson retrieved a mysterious artifact from an unexplored cavern that we exposed through heavy demolition. His find was a small marble figurine representing some sort of indistinguishable, quadrupedal creature – I could not quite discern if it were crafted to represent a reptilian or mammalian animal…
It had a dreadfully occult look about it to me and I told the lads to toss it back, but Johnson had a mercantile streak in him, and there was just no convincing him once he had set his mind on hocking a trinket, so my advice fell on deaf…
And there is the dreaded roll of the eyes! I have been expecting it. That certain ocular rotation that conveys a complete loss of interest. I am ashamed to admit that I am all too familiar with this affliction. But I have just the remedy: more ale!
It is just that it almost irks me…constantly shifting the subject matter about… dumbing things down…all to accommodate you people with your miniscule vocabularies and fleeting attention spans! I swear that this generation is factose intolerant! Can I just finish my informative and very captivating tale without any further interruptions? Argh!
Where was I?
So, like Caesar ignoring the seer during the Ides of March, my peers neglected to consider the consequences of their actions. Johnson sold his odd relic, and the next dozen he found while rooting around, to an eccentric antiquarian for a pretty penny indeed! Too many miners became aware that there was a little pocket change to be made, and soon they were ALL amateur archaeologists, scooping through muck and jumping at every stone in search of the blighted stone critters!
Furthermore, it did not seem to bother most of the other men that these… artifices did not seem to resemble any animal that had ever walked the Earth. Some of them had four legs, sure, but many had five or seven! Fantastical organisms they were, straight from a mad man’s delusional ravings! Lunacy!
And crafted from polished marble? No prehistoric indigenous person in this area would have been caught messing with the stuff – I believe they preferred to carve from other minerals or to use animal products such as antler and bone, though I am no paleoanthropologist!
The whole thing stunk to high heaven!
By the time the shimmering mists began to materialize and the lilting, ethereal chanting set in, most of the superstitious gents took to the hills, but some of us lingered on out of sheer curiosity. Sure, every fiber of my being screamed for me to flee, but I just had to hold on to that chance that maybe it would all work out for the greater good, you know?
So, we all carried on stoically, even nonchalantly, despite some of the stranger things, like Johnson’s newfound knack at levitating just off the floor…he said it was barely noticeable and he did not mind… or the way Dooley kept oozing luminescent ichor from his eyes…
That kind of thing…
Even I was changing, growing increasingly clever and introspective daily, though my colleagues were too busy dealing with more troubling maladies to notice my cerebral transformation… try removing a stubborn tentacle that sprouted overnight and you will understand. My tinnitus began then, though it was naught but a faint buzz at that time.
Before long, I was the only “man” remaining who was able to return to the town at night, much to the chagrin of their friends and families. Every one of my peers was so… different from before that they feared what would happen if they were to be noticed by the general populace… but how long could they live as moles?
There was no way to cover Dooley’s scales and the tentacles and extra limbs in general were popping up like weeds on every man – it did not help that they regenerated so quickly when they were amputated, which was becoming a full-time job around the place.
I devised a plan to spirit them all away to Hell in the dead of night. It involved detonating explosives to create an “accidental” cave-in. Sad, but still better than the families seeing what their loved ones had become…
Well, thanks for the Wi-Fi installation! Have a good night!
I really wanted you to read it and I kept checking to see if I had gotten out of hand with the gross stuff, you know?
Factoid intolerant. How great was that line? Indeed! Well done, and no need for the apology whatsoever. Very clever writing and nicely done. Kept me on my seat. I think you might have clarified the last line to – Well, thanks for the Wi-Fi repair instead of installation, as in the first paragraph you wrote: I thank you for fixing that contraption for me and I wish you well, which indicates it was a repair, not an installation. But that is sort of nit-picky, but all in all, a fair observation on my part.
Good tale with descriptive writing. And, I’m glad you cast the demon out.
I am humbled and good catch – I didn’t notice but that is a really important detail!
What a descent into “madness”, we’ve got here, into the mine and back with evermore wondrous tales of these men-from-below and what becomes of them. Fantasy rooted in reality, punctuated by beer drinking (reality descending into fantasy?), it’s a story that grows more outlandish by the paragraph, yet still holds itself together (and yes, it held me on too… I did read it till the end. I suppose I am not factose intollerant after all!). I will be reading it again and again, letting some time pass in between – I’m sure I’ll find more gems in it (like the miners digging in the mine) that I may have missed the first time…
(PS. And I’m still to comment on your last story… I didn’t forget that… bear with me!)
I wanted it to feel almost like the old man was challenging you to finish reading, like he was calling out the reader for not being able to finish and even shaming them…. but I couldn’t tell if it was working or just irritating!
I sooo enjoyed this extravagant piece of crazy writing. (Didn’t get that wifi bit… but who cares!)
I did feel like a miner digging deep and finding good stuff. Yours is fantasy worth the dig, dig, dig.
Will dig once more.
It hurt, but I managed to cast this demon out!
Harri ploughed deep into the frigidaire, digging his wiry, hairy hand inside, well past the leftover moussaka and halloumi, almost knocking down the bowl of pasta.
Then got the scare of his life.
Sitting at the very rear end of the frigidaire was none other than a Stevie Wonder mini lookalike. He heard the familiar drone:
‘Hellooo, is it me you’re looking for?
‘Cause I wonder where you are and I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely or is someone loving you?’
Into his dark hand, Stevie thrust a bottle of beer. Harri’s face broke into a smile as he kissed it with a passion known only to the bootle. The fifth one, this evening. Sallie had had enough of him for the day and retired early to bed. With her book. She needed no bottles to keep her chirpy.
There was always a dignified distancing ‘tween them for peace sake.
Caressing his bootle, Harri lay spreadeagled on the ol’ wooden chair, in the wide open patio, looking at the stars, wondering why each one was so distant from the other, alone in its aura.
It’s the year 2025
The tsunami that hit along with a hurricane, got the entire city close to being wiped out. Divine retribution?
Some were picking up from the trash, while others were throwing out trash.
The internet had removed any remaining trace of feeling or apathy from humans and each one lived for himself.
You could get a gun wound just for looking different. Get ignored. Get sidelined. Strangely enough the human body had adapted itself to not getting bloodied by these wounds. A stronger leathery skin had woven itself around each person who had the luxury to massage himself with extra virgin coconut oil from Tuticorin.
Evolution of sorts, you could call it.
Tender loving care as in the times of GrandPere gen had completely disappeared.
When little kids dined with their parents, both dada-mama were no longer sneaking peeks into their silly mobiles. Bejewelled phones were strapped right onto their eyes. So they’d stick an ipad in front of the little ‘brat’. They use this term a lot more for the babies they brought into the world, that’s if they ever vocalised.
The restaurants were filled with people talking without speaking.
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
(Simon, did you foresee? Garfunkel, did you know?)
Everybody lived a life devoid of emotion, motion, gumption, or attraction but made sure to massage with lotion each night. There was turtle collagen for tighter skin. Pumpkin mousse for curves. The lips pouted real big, and everything else on the body took on an added curve.
Even the ears.
Crafty ol’ Harri knew it was going to get worse and he sniffed money.
That’s how he chanced upon a brilliant idea to give the world what it needed most.
The desperate need of the day.
A super juice to raise the heart’s temperature to get folks more aware of one another.
It involved the mixing and mashing together of beets, ashwagandha, lemon, turmeric, ginger and pavakka. The last had a bitter twist and mixed together created a very special drink.
Honey made by special alpine bees was added to give a sweet kickass kinda feeling.
Upon drinking a quarter cup, eyebrows would naturally go up with immediate effect causing the perfect curve on either side of their eyeballs. A feeling of extreme satisfaction better than any glass of whiskey or beer.
However there was a statutory warning:
Couples must drink this together, being of one mind.
Risky if taken separately.
A solo drinker was likely to go off on a fiery tangent leaving the non-drinking spouse in the most blasé of moods where the things of the world would go strangely dim. Into a mind numbing silence.
Each time Harri thought of quitting the race, he drank a dollop of juice all BY HIMSELF!
It made him dance.
“I know, I know, I know,”…he’d start singing.
“What do you know that I don’t?” asked Sallie
“You CAN’T know because you listen to crap. You can never be like me, I am scientific. I read Saaiyeence.”
‘O yes, for sure’ screamed Sallie’s silent undertone.
Harri was getting used to being mean in his old age. His wife was getting closer to the Heavenly Father instead of him. Since he couldn’t quite get her gist, it got his goat.
The reality wasn’t unusual. It was happening in many homes. You’d see one spouse clinging to the Lord, leaving the other all knotted up at the unholy end. An eerie harsh silence therefore ensued from both. The thoughts that criss crossed the minds could be turned into a voluminous saga. Some wives knitted, some crocheted, some painted, or talked to their scarves or their dogs.
Even to their plants.
An Egyptian fly had found its way into the pantry. Sallie smashed it into silence. If there was a lockdown all over the city, why not kill the flies and moths too? Why should they be allowed to wander free?
When was the scenario going to change? It was five years since that lousy covid had struck the globe and nobody really cared for the 25th variant.
Across the road, at the Tomaz household, it was time for Myla to go to the beach to meditate. Her class was to start in an hour. It was called Maun hour- The Hour of Silence.
Silence? What is that word again?
What is a noisy, roaring, rumbling, tumbling, bustling, turbulent city to do with silence? That’s how her class got filled up with fancy women doing the mountain pose on the beach. Different, but serene.
Myla had retired from active counselling service. Free at last from the clatter, the incessant anguish of PTSD tales, and excessive documentation of inane details. The time when she took off to the beach became the precious hour for ol’ Tomaz who could find no more hiding places in the home where he wouldn’t hear her stentorious laughter.
His idea of profound repose and relaxation came from the vortex of the great money whirlpool, having been a financier all his life. Therein he found his mantra.
Whenever she talked, Tom Tomaz crossed his palms over his lips like an X. How well he knew the verse in Ecclesiastes: The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
“Ever since she is home, retired, my hands are over my lips. It makes sense not to speak. A fool lets fly with his temper, but a wise man keeps it back.” Nearing 77, peace was all he desired.
Myla didn’t mind his words. He still loved her, needed her. For her, love covered a multitude of sins.
Which wise guy said this? Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
I don’t want to belong to the second half.
I should stop.
Hope is a good thing. We can always hope for a better tomorrow.
Thank you, Liz. Appreciate your words.
This reminded me of good beat poetry, but with a futuristic twist.
Nice song references too.
Thanks for reading. Can’t help the songs in my head and it plays as I observe.
Humor is the best way out of hopeless situations, I say 🙂
Where oh where have you been. I thought you may have abandoned us, and then, here you are, with another tale of thoughts that actually make more sense upon a reread than the first or second time around.And, I love the line about people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. I sometimes wonder which camp I’m in.
A whimsical story of the future that lays bare a lot of the nonsense we put up with. Nice job, and good to see you on this forum again.
I had two stories over the last few weeks which never got done before the end date.
I did a mishmash of the ‘bottled emotions’ with silence here. It kinda worked for me and I got bold to press ‘Enter’.
Thanks so much.
Your Gordon is fantastic! May his tribe increase.
So here you are again with a quirky tale about a future still to come, but that is in many ways already with us. So it’s quirky, and poetic, but realistic too. Sally(ie) meets Harry yet again… And the love potions carry on from the bottled emotions of a prompt or so ago…
Your style is as always of the levitational kind, magical and mysterious in some way, yet rooted in the actual world we live in.
Renaming ‘Sally meets Harry’ to Sallie and Harri was totally intentional to give them an international flavor. 🙂
And Ken, you are the genius sleuth- It was my half done Emotions in a Bottle that I rehashed to a silent tenor.
Was mighty pleased when I was done with it.
Cheering you on right back.
Gotta work on gettin’ a car up the terrace and make it look as natural as mist on the roof top.
by Robt. Emmett
There comes a time for all things to fall silent. She was a significant influence on me all during my eight years in elementary school. I’ll let her tell her story.
“Hello. I’m one of the hidden streams of Duluth’s Hillside. People call me Grey’s Creek, although I really don’t know why. I suppose some family named Grey lived close to me for a while, but I don’t remember them. Instead, I’d really rather be named for something that reflects my personality … perhaps I could be called the Little Water. I’m a lot smaller than my neighbors, Chester and Brewery Creeks. I only have about sixty acres of land from which to collect my water. I flow through the East Hillside neighborhood, carrying rainwater from the Summit School hilltop, past the Peace Church and Grant School, and down the hill between eighth and ninth Avenues East all the way to Lake Superior.
“Like all the streams in the Hillside, I flowed free until about 140 years ago, when people built a city right here. It wasn’t long before they started to hide parts of me away in underground culverts from my mouth at Lake Superior all the way to 4th Street. I didn’t complain. The buildings that were put on top of me were mostly houses and apartments for the city’s working folks. Those folks were a lot like me … hard-working, minded their own business, and just wanted to make Duluth a beautiful place to live.
“Because I don’t have any waterfalls or high rocky cliffs, no one ever built any big fancy parks along my banks. However, for the same reasons, short stretches of me were left open here and there. It was just a few years ago, in 2002, that one of my most beautiful open sections, right below East 6th Street, was put into a culvert and disappeared. But I still flow free in several places. My eastern branch flows along Kenwood Avenue from Partridge Street to Skyline Parkway and then down a steep hill to the Grant Recreation Area. My western branch can be seen in a few spots near 9th Avenue East from Skyline Parkway to the Recreation Area. These two branches join to flow through a beautiful half-block stretch right across the street from Grant School. Then it’s underground to the alley below 10th Street, where I get another half-block of freedom. I cross under East 9th Street near Foreign Affairs, flow free to 8th Street, and catch my last glimpse of daylight near 7th Street and 8th Avenue East. After that, it’s dark, cold culverts the rest of the way to the lake.
“A few of the folks who live near me enjoy having me for a neighbor, and they’ve built decks and porches so they can sit outside and listen to the sound of my water flowing gently down the hill. In other places, I’m taken for granted and used as a dumping ground for grass clippings, branches, and trash.
“But now and then, people in the neighborhood rediscover me and clean up the trash. This happened on a sunny day in May, twenty-eight years ago, when some lovely young neighborhood kids organized a cleanup along my free-flowing section near Grant School. About a dozen people showed up and hauled away lots of stuff that otherwise might have ended up in Lake Superior.
“It’s great when people come to visit me and help take care of me. After all, that’s what neighbors are for. I like the neighborhoods that grew up around me, and I tried to do my part by carrying water down the hill to Lake Superior. So next time you’re in the East Hillside, be sure to stop by and see what I’m doing. But you must hurry. I will see the autumn colors for the last time this fall. The final 180 feet of my ‘open to the stars run’ will be encased in a culvert before the snowfalls.
“Remember me as Little Water instead of Grey’s Creek!”
— ℜ —
What a departure from your usual writing. And, got a geography lesson thrown in with it. One question. If rivers are ‘old men’ as in ‘Old Man River’, creeks are of the feminine persuasion? Or is that just artistic license? Now I’ve got another thing to lay awake at night and worry about.
Nicely told tale and good take on the prompt. You must have a diary of your past, because even though I can recall a couple of streets where I lived as a kid, they’re few and far between, and I cannot tell you a single thing about where I went to High School except the street I lived on, and a few other places where something significant happened, like the night we painted Red Bridge blue and gold (our colors) and a few other things. You make a story out of every street. Whew. Wish I had that kind of recall. Maybe it’s best my mind is cluttered with that kind of stuff, although anybody who knows me will tell you it is cluttered. Stuffed full of useless facts. A nice Jeopardy skill, but useless when writing a story where you need to recall a couple of names from the past.
Here is my explanation for my last-minute entry.
I had the same problem as Peter had with his non-story, “Hamsters” and took a pass. Then the bonus prompt Car on the Roof happened. Great, I thought, a car story. Just up my alley. And after posting and filing away “Pam’s Fault,” I noticed a little thing I’d written many years ago. Two things became evident; Why I’d failed English so often and, with a little polish, the story was a fitter for “Silence.”
Roy, the sex of a body of water, is up for grabs.
As to my memory, I clearly remember my school years and long after. Yesterday H not so good.
Grey’s Creek was on the Northeast corner of 7th Street and 8th Avenue East. It was on two city lots, 801 and 803. I lived at 805 East 7th Street. My cousin recently notified me it’s due to be enclosed as the story states. Other than the large creeks mentioned, dozens of lesser one have been culvert’d-over.
Grey’s creek was the babysitter for the kids in the neighborhood. There were, at various times, four to ten of us, all about the same age. We’d use the supple branches of the willows as bounding horses to chase the bad guys. The lagoon, about the size of a small room, floated our boats made from quart sized wax paper milk cartons. They burned great, and firecrackers boosted the level of entertainment value. Adding gun powder was a bad idea. Fortunately, at the supper table, Dad noticed my missing eyebrows and sent me to my room before Mom saw. She hated the creek.
And last tid-bit. One evening after the others had gone home after an evening of flashlight tag, Sheryl Quinn and I sat on the top of the covert and talked, We held hands. Then before we went home, we kissed … once. My first non-familial kiss.
I’m glad you enjoyed the view of my creek, Liz.
There is nothing sweet about that water these days…
This story was only missing maps and pictures 🙂
Little Water got a friend in the Brook!
….And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go
But I go on forever.
I couldn’t quite get couple of your quotation marks which opened and never closed though.
That said, here is the gist of why I use the double quote mark (American form) at the beginning of each paragraph and only at the ending section. The structure of HMTL coding used on this platform does not show paragraph breaks or indention, so it’s hard to discern the beginning and end of the paragraphs.
“When a speaker’s words in dialogue extend to over one paragraph, use an opening quotation mark at the beginning of each paragraph. However, use a closing quotation mark only at the end of the person’s speech, not at the end of every paragraph.”
You might want to ask, “What harm would occur if it were ignored and people put both opening and closing quotation marks on each adjacent quoted paragraph?”
If you closed quotes at the end of every paragraph, you would need to re-identify the speaker with every subsequent paragraph.
Once, a famous writing guru I took an online course from, insisted that a place can’t be a character in a story. Characters have to be human, humanoids or human-like. I had a feeling he was wrong. Now I read your piece. He was wrong.
By Roy York
The last remaining tendrils of his dream were slowly dissolving. Desperately, he tried to cling to them – grasping at them with his mind. Elusively, as all dreams do, they slid away. Awareness began to envelop him as he felt the ceiling fan’s gentle breeze on his forehead.
It was still dark and he had no idea what time it was. Gordon Booth slowly opened one eye and saw the illuminated numbers on the clock by his bedside – 5:17. ‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘too early to get up, and probably too late to get back to sleep.’
He lay without moving, sensing something was going on, something he couldn’t quite put together in his mind, and wondered why he felt so strange. Perhaps his dream had been unsettling. The fogginess of sleep was still clouding his thought processes.
He was aware of his wife, Shirley, laying next to him, warming his left side. He loved the feeling and sense of security her presence brought to him each morning. He noticed she wasn’t moving and he couldn’t hear her breathe.
He reached over with his right hand and pressed his hand gently on her rib cage where he felt the slow and gentle fall of her breathing. Satisfied everything was as it should be, he slid his hand over farther and pulled himself closer to her satisfying his need to hold her close, breathing in the smell of her which he loved.
Everything is right with the world. Or, is it? A nagging thought nibbled in the corner of his mind. Something was gently but urgently, telling him something was different this morning. Warm satisfaction grew as he realized his tinnitus, that constant and persistent roar, whistling in his ears – sometimes so severe he could barely stand it – was gone.
The thought startled him. Then, he also realized he couldn’t hear the gentle, but ever present whirr of the fan blades he could see turning.
He raised himself to a sitting position on the side of the bed. Sticking his index fingers into each ear he twisted them back and forth and pulled them out. He felt them, but heard no sound. He stood up and walked into the bathroom and flipped the light switch. The light came on, but there was no accompanying click.
Impulsively, he reached over and flushed the toilet. He watched the water swirl around in the bowl without hearing sound. He looked into the mirror and saw the look of disbelief on his face. He cleared his throat, again without hearing a single sound. Looking deep into his own reflection, Gordon Booth realized he was deaf. Not just deaf, but profoundly deaf, suddenly, as if he’d been disconnected from the universe.
He called out to his wife, Shirley, and in his reflection he could see his lips move, but heard absolutely nothing. The absence of sound was almost overwhelming. He called out his wife’s name again, louder – he thought – and turned toward the door.
He could see her getting out of bed, as she rushed toward him, her lips moving. He could tell by the look of concern on her face she knew something was wrong. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t hear you,” he said. “I can’t hear any sounds. I am totally and completely deaf.”
“Gordon,” she said, “are you sure? You’re telling me you’re deaf?” He looked at her helplessly and shrugged his shoulders.
“I have no idea what you just said to me,” he said. “Wait a minute. I’ll be right back.” He quickly walked into their office and grabbed a pen and pad from the desk. When he returned he handed it to her and said, “Here. Write down what you are saying. I can’t hear any thing.”
She wrote, DO YOU WANT ME TO CALL 911?
He looked at her in disbelief. “No,” he said, knowing she could hear him.
DON’T TALK SO LOUD, she wrote.
He almost smiled. He took the urgency out of his voice and said, “Is this better?”
She nodded her head. LET ME MAKE SOME COFFEE. WE NEED TO GET YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM. YOU GET DRESSED.
He grabbed her hand. “Make the coffee,” he said, “but first, before any emergency room, I’m going to do some research. Then we’ll decide.”
A few minutes later, with his coffee in hand, he sat down at the dining room table with Shirley. “It’s called SSHL. Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. It may be temporary but, there’s a greater chance it could be permanent, according to what I’ve read. So, I think I should make an appointment with Dr. Davison first, and then get his recommendation as to how to proceed.”
* * * * *
Gordon was sitting on the couch watching the golf match when Shirley walked into the room and sat next to him. She held out a glass of wine in front of him getting his attention.
“Thanks,” he said.
She sat down next to him and picked up her pad. IT’S BEEN 3 MONTHS. HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING?
“Other than the fact you’re more beautiful now than when I married you, no,” he said.
She laughed and playfully hit him on the shoulder. She wrote DO WE HAVE TO WATCH GOLF? I CAN THINK OF OTHER THINGS WE CAN DO.
“Like what?” he asked. From the moment he had been afflicted with his sudden deafness, Shirley had been far more attentive than she had ever been. He was truly enjoying it, perhaps more than he should.
She wrote, YOU CAN HELP ME MAKE THE BED.
“I made it a little while ago.”
She stood up and tossed her head in the direction of the bedroom as if saying, “come on”. THEN YOU CAN HELP ME MESS IT UP, she wrote. She tossed the pad on the coffee table. She started to unbutton her blouse.
“Can I bring the wine?” he said as he stood up and, using the remote, clicked off the TV..
She grabbed her glass and, gently pulling him toward her, kissed him
sensuously on the lips. He kissed back with a bit more passion.
With her leading the way as they walked toward the bedroom, he thought to himself, “How and when am I going to tell her I can hear again?”
My wife, to whom I am indebted as a beta reader, had the same reaction, but hers was something more on the lines of ‘had this been a true story’ looking me right in the eyes, indicated I would need to sleep with one eye open for the rest of my life. That’s how pissed she would be. So, I kinda know … and I believe her. It was just he way she said it.
Ahem … thinking for my character, I’m sure he was thinking he needed to do tell her pretty soon, but right now, things are going so well, if you get my drift, he is going to risk it just a bit longer.
Love covers a multitude of sins, including tinnitus! :)))
Love this story, Roy!
It’s quite an enjoyable read, starting in a panicky mode, in that twilight zone between sleep, dream and wakefulness (I think this is the most beautifully told part of the story). We soon realize that there are perks in deafness, like in everything else in life, good and bad. It depends how one looks at whatever it is. The fondness Gordon receives outweighs the major inconvenience of not being able to hear, and now that he can hear again, well, he has a dilemma…
It’s interesting how some, like Phil, demonized sound/noise, while here the problem (turned prospect) is silence and deafness…
I posted it and Trish read it, but it looked like it disappeared when I apologized for it!
If you’d like me to revert the sorry comment back to sorry, let me know.
It was just me being a silly goose and apologizing for the story itself (lol).
Time is up!
You officially have 24 hours to vote.
Don’t vote for yourself.
Vote for a story once and only once.
Yes the womenfolk can vote too hahaha
I already read half of the stories, will download the other half now to read tomorrow. Great stuff so far. My offering is too late for the contest so skipping it altogether is understandable, especially if you’re driving a car or operating heavy machinery.
This is just a kind of a short free, fart of a story, but don’t let that fool you, you’ll be asleep within minutes after reading this. If you can even make it to the end. Good luck.
555 words (or so.)
He came to his senses slumped in his easy chair. She was sitting on the sofa across from him in a bright yellow sun dress, flipping through some kind of journal, scanning each page, then deftly bending the issue back until, as if in slow motion, a single page turned.
She would then scan the next page, and go through the same identical motions. In turn, each page submitted itself for her idle scrutiny before being bent, raised, turned, and dismissed.
He watched with a kind of empty-headed fascination at the simplicity of her page-turning technique, how gently her elegant hands cradled the book’s spine, the way her nimble fingers manipulated each page.
His eyes drifted from her hands to her arms, then shifted their focus to a small diamond pendant that twinkled as it moved with the steady rise and fall of her chest.
Her brown eyes, shielded by long lashes, often conveyed a sense of surprise. Dimples in each cheek leant a hint of doubt, or skepticism to her expression.
She turned another page.
‘I am so hopelessly inept with this woman,’ he thought; he was nearly moved to speak, but held his tongue. It would be wiser to let her speak first.
He wanted to explain, to apologize, to beg for her forgiveness—but for what? Which of his assorted sins, of recent vintage, had offended her profound loveliness? He had no clue.
He was the village clod, who trips over a gold brick in his yard. Her interest in him was inexplicable by anyone’s judgement, even his.
‘So,’ he thought, ‘this is what people mean by ‘the silent treatment’.
He cleared his throat, unsure of what to say, but she didn’t look up.
It was their third anniversary; he knew that much. He’d taken her out for dinner at a fancy restaurant in town, and—something had happened.
He remembered sweaty faces, the sounds of grunts and groans, fists flying and blood on one of his nicest shirts. A gift from his wife—who turned another page.
That must be it. The details were still fuzzy but he must have made a shambles out of their anniversary dinner.
What could he do to make amends? What could he say?
And then he remembered. It wasn’t some clumsy oaf making amorous advances, or your typical mix of alcohol and testosterone. This was different. Someone had insulted her, deliberately.
Events came back to him as the hangover abated and he winced as he shifted his weight in his favorite chair.
She noticed his movement and glanced up, closed the magazine with one hand and addressed him with her free hand. “Great morning sunlight. How do you brain this early?”
Even after three years he was still not very competent, but thought, ‘That can’t be right,’ and made the sign for a question.
She repeated the signs more distinctly. ‘Good morning Sunshine. How is your head?’ She pointed at her head.
“Ah, of course, my head. How is my head?” he said, and gave her a thumbs up, then a thumbs down. After a moment of thought, and unable to recall the correct sign for the word, he simply spelled it out. H-a-r-d a-s e-v-e-r.
Pity we can’t vote for you this time around. But, then again, I may be operating heavy machinery. It can be dangerous.
I am familiar with the feeling of just knowing that you did something awful and your wife is about to let you know exactly what it was… but it was a relief to find out that maybe he behaved admirably?
Also, turning pages is an art and many people don’t realize how ham-fisted they look. You definitely wrote a good hook with that part.
I couldn’t come up with anything until the last three days… and it didn’t have much of a point….. except maybe that I feel like I am “that guy” trying to tell his life story when no one cares!
(Sometimes I realize that I don’t even care!)
But this definitely felt planned and pointed, just truncated.
Here is to the next one – see you on the noir side!
Just waiting on a few last votes!
I think your story was tops, brilliantly conceived and executed. (Like a military operation.) A light-hearted but cutting satirical commentary on the current state of political affairs in much of the civilized world. Blecht.
Looks like I’ll be able to vote on the stories at least, if unable to offer anything in the way of comments this week. It’s clear that this site is bubbling over with thoughtful, creative, high-quality writers. (Quite possibly authors, even. Heavens to Murgatroyd!)
I really didn’t have the interest to write this week, nor the connections to read or comment. I thought it would be a clever prompt, but even I was stumped for a story. I guess I decided to live the prompt instead of writing about it. Good prompts are not one of my speci-alities. Ask anyone. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Good luck in the voting, Ken Miles.
Here are your winners!
First Place: Blown Away by Phil Town
Second Place: Silent Treatment by Roy York
Third Place: Burn After Reading by John Mansfield
Fourth Place: by Once Upon a Time by Ilana Leeds
Fifth Place: Permission to speak? by Ken Frape
Sixth Place: Silence is Deaf by Liz Fisher
Seventh Place: Claptrap by Ken Miles
Eighth Place: Sweet Revenge by kirstennairn
Ninth Place: To everything there is a season by Robt. Emmett
Tenth Place: The Tale of Two Couples by Marien Oommen
Eleventh Place: The importance of being silent by Mike Rymarz
Twelfth Place: Hamsters by Peter Holmes
Disqualified due to not voting: The Sound Of? by Colin Devonshire
The favorite character was “Gordon” from Roy’s Silent Treatment
And the story with the favorite dialogue was “Sweet Revenge” by kirstennairn
Congrats to all!
It’s getting increasingly difficult to put the stories in order of quality (for me, anyway). Congrats all!
Comments are closed.