Unwanted Exit

Write a brief scene in which two characters deal with taking a wrong turn on the way to something important.

“I hate these bloody things. They never work!” spat Grant.

His labour weathered hands danced across the rental car’s touch screen, poking at button after button. After several attempts, he threw his hands up in disgust, returning his attention to the asphalt scrolling ahead of him. He inhaled and exhaled deeply three times, just as his doctor advised. Life isn’t meant to be lived at 120 kilometres an hour, Grant, he had said. What did he know? His office smelled of the tropics, and it wouldn’t have been of his own doing but rather from his legion of cleaners. He didn’t know the harsh reality the other half lived in.

He turned to the passenger seat to see his wife, Tabitha, slowly opening and closing the air conditioning vent in front of her. Long silver hair framed her distant face as she slid the catch open, and closed. Apparently she either hadn’t heard Grant’s frustrated outburst, or had learned to filter it out after the 35 years they had been married.

“Hon, can you please figure out where we’re going?” Grant asked.

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Wife of a False Hood

Write a short story based on the newspaper headline “Wife of a False Hood”.

Auburn leaves danced around the feet of two cloaked figures in the early evening twilight. As they solemnly paced along a cobble pathway into a dense forest, the orange glow of the sunset coloured their hooded robes an even brighter red. There was total silence, save for the whisper of the wind through the trees, and the rhythmic tapping of boots on cobblestone.

The pair slowly ventured through the forest for a time before glancing behind them. Breathing a loud sigh of relief, the shorter one removed her hood with elation. “Well honey, that was another great session!” The woman removed her hair tie to let her contrasting blonde locks rest over her cloak.

The taller figure also removed his hood, revealing a man with sharp blue eyes, blinking against the dim surroundings. He dug into his cloak to pull out a pair of glasses, and upon wearing them, his grimace dissolved. He now stared forward impassively as they walked.

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Watch Me

“Watch me, Ava!” Dillon Longwill called out under the morning sun. Legs pointing to the clouds above, his arms were quivering as he tried a handstand. His daughter was inquisitive, but not paying any attention. Tongue poking out of her pursed mouth, she grasped her plastic shovel and whipped her arm up and down, striking the wet sand, as if wishing for a sand castle to appear.

Dillon leaned forward and turned his display into a somersault. Rising up from the sand, he let out a sigh and scratched the back of his scalp. Amber brilliance was peeking through the trees at the end of the beach he was facing. The reflection it cast from washed rocks before the tree line splashed them with a beautiful morning salute.

Dillon couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen such a perfect morning. This momentarily shifted his focus from the current situation. Taking care of Ava was completely new to him. Sure, she rightfully was his child, and his responsibility, but he felt so unprepared. He had already resigned to the fact that he would never see her again. But, sometimes life sends a surprise wave that can wipe away all routine and normality in one sweep.

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The Announcement

One of the tiles wasn’t right. That’s what I remember.

People say you’ll remember the date, where you were, who you were with. I guess it’s easier to hold anniversaries that way. Yet, one of those tiny blue tiles was misaligned. I noticed this because I never lifted my head until the announcement was made.

I could faintly hear the television set from the corner of the room. The corner, seemingly miles away. Someone was yelling at their husband, presumably, in a nameless daytime soap. Shouting at him to sort his life out.

If only this tile would sort itself out.

From the other corner of the room I heard my brother’s rhythmic shuffling. It would stop for several seconds, and then continue at random. He always had restless legs when he was nervous. I didn’t blame him. The denim rubbing against itself always irritated me, but in that setting it had lulled me into an almost catatonic state.

To my right, my mother breathed deeply, creating her own illusion of tranquillity  Each breath she let out started strong, but became unstable and quivered at the end, like a forest wind, passing through a clearing only to strike trees before its ascension. Her lips trembled.

All I saw were three pairs of shoes. For hours, our shoes and that tile.

Then, a fourth pair, draped in a white coat, breached our circle. They brought a paralysing chill. I knew what it meant. I lifted my head; not to study the newcomer, but to examine my family’s reactions. My brother had stopped his nervous tick, grasping the sides of his chair. Seemingly poised to attack as if expecting the worst. My mother’s eyes were glassed over, her cheeks flushed. She only stared at the doctor with her mouth agape.

“I’m sorry, he fought hard but he didn’t make it.”

An agonising wail filled every corner of the room. This was joined by the scraping of a chair as my brother sprung up to confront the messenger. A heated argument concerning what should or shouldn’t have been done to save our father’s life joined the symphony of misery.

I only lowered my head again, accepting the crushing defeat. I had pondered on why everything went wrong for us. Why life wasn’t fair. Why there had to be things that didn’t go to plan.

Like that one fucking tile.

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“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

– John Green

Thoughts

Red

The Challenge:

Pick a book in the room. Copy down a random sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.

The concern in his voice was clear and immediate. He eyed me up and down as if I were an alien to this planet. A silly thought, as I’m only two blocks away from where I’ve spent the last nineteen years of my life. My hair was still dripping with the warm summer rain that I had accumulated on the run to this bus stop.

“I said stay away from me!” His tone had risen, as did his head from the newspaper he’d formerly been buried in. One side of his lip was quivering, which seemed to set his entire soft, round face into a vibrating motion. I was unsure if sweat had already started to form on his bald head, or if he too had been caught in the sudden burst of showers. Judging by his utter fear of my being there, I was inclined to say the former.

“Excuse me?” I was dumbfounded by this man’s reaction. I’d never seen him before, let alone have a reason to harm him. Cautiously, I took one step closer to the man sitting in the corner of the bus stop, with my hands raised in the universal gesture of ‘no harm’.

He immediately sprung to his feet and attempted to use his paper as a highly ineffective shield. His back was up against a glass pane. As a man of his rotund stature, I didn’t trust the glass to support him for too long. I found myself frozen in what I thought was a peaceful approach. The rain provided a steady liquid static on the bus stop roof, drowning out all sound except for my heartbeat which sped up due to being in this unfamiliar circumstance. I was confused; I’ve always considered myself to me a likeable person. The large man’s chest rose and fell with each breath, and I momentarily had to look down and stifle laughter as I likened the situation to a helpless elephant cornered by a mouse. As I raised my head again to understand the issue, I noticed his frightened gaze wasn’t locked on mine.

He was staring at my red shirt. Continue reading

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Hitch-hiker

“Man, am I glad to see you,” were the first words spoken as the stranger had opened the door to the passenger seat. From first impressions, he had seemed harmless enough. Just another man, standing by his broken-down car on the side of the road, waving for help.

But now, Trent wasn’t so sure.

It had been a full five minutes since those innocent words were spoken, but much can change in a short period of time. Already, he felt there was something about this man that wasn’t quite right. Sure, there were the standard pleasantries; how are you, where are you heading, nice weather we’re having, right?

But the man who had called himself ‘Clayton’ just didn’t look comfortable in his own skin. Trent had heard that saying from his mother countless times growing up, but never fully understood it. He had simply written it off as another one of her mindless sayings that filled the silence she hated so much.

Catching glances of the man now, he could already notice a few abnormalities. Clayton hadn’t moved a muscle since he had entered the car. His arms remained limp in his lap, back straight, and feet planted squarely on the floor. This perhaps wouldn’t have appeared so jarring if it weren’t for what he was wearing. It was a fine charcoal suit, quite expensive by the look. Continue reading

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