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Long Talks About Short Stories

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  • #55301
    I, David
    @i-david

    Hello, fellow peoples!

    I don’t know about you guys, but I love writing short stories–even though I’m not the best at making them, haha! But regardless, they’re one of the things I enjoy most about writing, and I’d go so far as to say that at least one other person here loves them just as much, too.

    So I made this thread. (Obviously. Heh.) It’s for posting short stories, talking about short stories, ranting over short stories… basically anything that’s short and a story! (But as the title implies, the talks don’t have to be short… :D)

    So… yeah. Conversation initiated. *Sits and waits patiently for someone to talk to*

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #55307
    Grace
    @h-jones

    *appears*

    Hi again. P: Short stories are one of my favorite things, so alas – my arrival.

    Fun fact, this website has like, a whole page dedicated just to short stories. I recommend glossing through it, if you get the time. This one I highly commend – it was the first place winner in a short story contest this site held a while back. Really worth the read, at least in my opinion.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Grace.

    Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

    #55310
    I, David
    @i-david

    @h-jones Yes, I read those! So amazing… I wish we could read more of them. I even read the guild challenge winners, too. The level of creativity and skill on Story Embers is truly impressive!

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #55319
    Grace
    @h-jones

    @i-david Oh, wow! xD Nice. Yes, they’re absolutely wonderful – I really enjoy them. And yeah, Story Embers is full of amazing, talented people!

    Do you have a short story you’re particularly proud of?

    Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

    #55328
    I, David
    @i-david

    @h-jones I have a few, yeah! Dearly Departed, Maybe, A Hero’s Call, Time to Say Goodbye, and the beginning of Disappointing are some I really like.

    How about you?

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #55347
    I, David
    @i-david

    @literallyanyoneelsewho’sinterestedinthisconversation

    Anyone have a short story they love and be willing to share? I could start, but I’m sure there’s better stories that could be told here!

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by I, David.

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #55519
    Parker Hankins
    @parker

    Hey, I love to read short stories, but I don’ like writing them because I have so little motivation for them. Books are easier for me XD!! But, I have written quite a few since I really like contests.

    I’m joining this thread!

    Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.

    #55643
    I, David
    @i-david

    @parker Awesome! I can’t figure out how you find books easier to write, though. Writing just one has me on the struggle-bus, haha.

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #55679
    Cassie Hartfinh
    @cassie-hartfinh

    *fades into existence, then sneezes and trips over a chair leg* Who put that there? Hm.

    Anyways, hello! Short stories are one of my favorite things to write! Besides novels and poetry, of course. So…if you’d like me to post my most recent short story, here goes! (It’s kinda long, though. Hope it all posts okay.)

    I Dream of Blue Spotted Wings

    By Cassie Hartfinh

    The breeze swishes around me slowly, lifting up small strands of my thick auburn ringlets, caressing them and tugging them gently. My skin tingles as I feel the comfortably chilly air wash over me, while the warm sun soothes my back from overhead. I close my eyes and smile, breathing deeply, savoring the aroma of fresh roses, petunias, and irises. The grass tickles my feet. I spread myself flat against the green earth, soaking in nature’s beautiful, harmonious ambience. I sigh in pleasure, letting peace fill my weary heart.

    Then I hear a sound above the sighing of the breeze. A sound that is hard to make out for anyone except me. My heart skips a beat, but this time it’s not painful—it is an excited dance beneath my chest. My smile turns into a full-on grin, and I open my eyes and sit up.

    There, a mere three feet away, it flutters around the petals of a pink petunia, searching for a safe place to land and drink of its sweet nectar. The color of the blossom contrasts beautifully with its deep blue, spotted wings.

    The pipevine swallowtail. My most favorite of all butterflies.

    The butterfly finds a stable petal, and lands. My breath hitches in my throat and, sensing the importance of this moment, the breeze holds its breath, too. I watch with wide, hazel eyes as the butterfly sticks out its tongue and sips daintily from the trumpet of the petunia.

    I lick my lips and lean forward in anticipation, resting my full weight on my right arm while I ever-so-slowly reach out with my left. This is what I’ve always wanted, what I’ve always dreamed of. To touch a wild butterfly’s wing as it rests. My heart beats furiously, and I remind myself to stay calm, to move so slowly that the butterfly cannot be startled. I lean closer, close enough to count the orange and yellow spots along the butterfly’s lower wings, close enough to count the thin yellow bands around its long, deep blue body. My fingers reach toward the creature, and for an instant, I allow myself to truly believe that this time, I will achieve my deepest desire.

    Then something happens. Something, I’ll never know what, startles the butterfly out of its rest, and its wings beat furiously. It rises from the petunia and flutters away before I can blink. The breeze stirs up again, tugging my hair, blowing it into my face and chilling my bones. The sun disappears beneath a dark cloud. Rain begins to fall. The field around me turns to a dead, overgrown forest of thorns and vines.

    “No!” I cry, sobbing, sinking to the ground. “I almost had it! I almost touched it! No!”

    The breeze is replaced by a sound of beeping. My back, once painless and strong, suddenly convulses in a spasm of pain. I cry out. Darkness engulfs my vision. I can feel it. I scream and claw at the darkness, tears pouring down my face, the incessant beeping noise filling my ears and drowning out every memory of the butterfly’s existence. I cry harder, my heart beating with pain and grief. I almost had it.

    The beeping won’t stop. The pain grows worse. I cry. I cry.

    “Sophie! For goodness’ sake, stop clawing me, child!” Someone grabs my hands and forces them to be still.

    I gasp and sit upright with eyes wide open, before falling back into the pristine white sheets again, still crying in pain.

    “Hannah, run and get the doctor. Tell him Sophie’s morphine is low again.” Aunt Gerda’s urgent voice stirs my older sister to action, and she scurries out the door.

    I close my eyes and squeeze more tears out, my arms falling limp, pain racing up and down my spine.

    Aunt Gerda’s soft, cool, wrinkled and timeworn hands gently wipe the damp hair and sweat from my forehead. “You’ll feel better in a few minutes, Sophie,” she assures me, her voice altered to a softer tone, the one she uses to cover up the fact that she’s as scared as I am.

    Another sob escapes my throat. “I almost had it this time.”

    “The swallowtail?”

    I attempt a nod, then moan when pain shoots up my neck.

    Aunt Gerda sighs wearily, looking away. “If only the medicine would last longer. Then at least you would have had success in your dreams.” I can hear the mournful tears in her thick voice.

    “Why must I be this way, Aunt Gerda?” I have asked this question a million times. “Why can’t I go outside, just once? To find the butterfly?”

    She shakes her head. “We’ll have none of that talk, now. You know where this conversation always leads you.”

    To anger. To bitterness. To despair. Because I know I will never be able to go outside. I will never see the butterfly. I will never touch its wings. Not outside, and possibly never in my dreams, either.

    Another spasm of pain races up my spine again, and my body seizes. I gasp.

    Hannah reappears at last, running through the doorway, followed closely by the doctor.

    “She says the morphine is low again,” Dr. Yutgraf says to Aunt Gerda.

    Aunt Gerda nods, her eyes bright. She squeezes my hands reassuringly. “Can you give her another dose?” she asks.

    I wish I could squeeze her hands back.

    Dr. Yutgraf looks skeptical. His gaze passes between me and Aunt Gerda. “We’ll have to talk about that outside,” he says, gesturing to the door.

    “Of course.” Aunt Gerda suddenly looks weary, worn out. She strokes my hand with her thumb, smiling kindly. The wrinkles by her eyelids bunch up as she attempts to smile away all of our sorrows. “I’ll be back soon, dears,” she says, glancing at Hannah.

    Hannah nods. The both of us watch Aunt Gerda and the doctor leave, Dr. Yutgraf shutting the hospital room door behind the both of them.

    Another spasm of pain rockets up my spine, from my tailbone to my neck. I gasp and whimper.

    Hannah notices, and she begins rubbing my arms gently. This always helps to calm me down, to distract me from the ever-constant pain. I focus on her perfect brown curls, on her cherry-red lips, the ones that cause so many boys to blush. I will the spasm to leave.

    “What are Aunt Gerda and the doctor talking about?”

    Hannah sighs. “You needn’t concern yourself with grown-up talk.”

    Another spasm hits, this one across my ribcage. My heart jumps. I grit my teeth. “Please tell me. Distract me.”

    Hannah hesitates, rubbing my limp arms harder as she glances uncertainly at the closed door. Finally, she looks back at me, and gives in. “I heard Dr. Yutgraf say something about our credit. How we won’t be able to afford your medicine for much longer. As it is, they’re having to ration your doses so that we can pay for them in smaller amounts, to help with our debt.”

    My heart sinks, and I look away. “If I was born normal, we wouldn’t have such problems.” A tear trickles unbidden down my cheek. I am unable to wipe it away, and it mingles with the still-damp tears I cried when I woke up.

    “Don’t talk like that, Sophie.” Hannah finds my gaze and holds it, knowing I can’t turn my head away. She frowns at me. “This is not your fault. It does not matter to me whether you were born normal or not. The past seven years you’ve been alive have been the best years of my life.” Her voice chokes up with these words, and I know she speaks truth.

    But, stubbornly, I close my eyes. “Then I blame the war general who poisoned Mother and Father just before she gave birth to me.”

    I hear Hannah choke back a sob, and my heart pangs with sudden remorse. I forget that she remembers that awful day. I forget never to speak of the way our parents died.

    “I’m sorry,” I whisper, opening my eyes. “I didn’t mean it.”

    Hannah nods, moving to massaging my upper arms. “I know.”

    “Tell me a story about them,” I ask. “A funny one.”

    Hannah’s eyes light up at the request. Although she was only ten when they died, she still remembers our parents fondly, and she loves speaking about them. “Should I tell about the day Father pushed Mother in the tire swing, or the Tie in the Pea Soup story?”

    I grin as best as I can. “The Tie in the Pea Soup. Please.”

    Hanna’s lipsticked lips part in a pearly smile, and she gets the familiar, faraway look in her eyes. “One day, a year before you were born, Mother made Pea Soup for dinner.”

    “That was before the Nine Months’ War,” I interject, suppressing a groan after a small spasm.

    Hannah nods patiently. “Indeed. That was when people still lived happily, when crops were abundant and neighbors were quick to help each other. When the boys would gather on the Great Hill and dance for three straight nights with their girls.” Her smile grows, and a light sparks in her eyes as her face fills with a yearning I do not understand. “Back before the East and West disagreed on who was to become the next President. Before the American-Longitudinal Wall separated East and West. Before the West became an absolute monarchy.” Now her eyes dim, and her smile fades. A frown creases her brow.

    “Get back to Mother and Father,” I demand, before her thoughts can take her further away from our parents.

    Hannah shakes herself. “Yes, well, anyway, Mother decided to make pea soup for dinner. Father was away on a trip for the government, but he was expected home that night, and pea soup was his favorite meal. Oh, Mother slaved all day for that soup. It had to be perfect for Father.”

    “So she stirred in an extra cupful of love.” I smile.

    Hannah nods. “And an extra spoonful of devotion.”

    “And an extra pinch of kisses and hugs,” we recite together.

    “And when Father stepped in the front door and hung up his overcoat, and he sniffed that soup, all of his worries were chased away,” Hannah continues. “And he tasted that soup, and suddenly he knew that Mother wanted another child, because she had heaped enough love and devotion and hugs and kisses for four people.”

    I grin. My favorite part is what Hannah tells next.

    “Well, Father stood up from that supper to sweep Mother into a hug, but he did it so fast, his tie flopped forward and the tip of it fell right into that bowl of pea soup.”

    I feel the spasms diminishing in strength.

    “And Father made a joke of how they would call their new daughter—for Mother wished for a daughter—Soup-of-Peas, to remember that night. But he sneezed right as he told the joke, so it came out sounding like “Sophie”.

    “And that’s what they named me,” I finish.

    Hannah nods. “And that’s what they named you. Before you were even born. They already loved you. They didn’t care how you turned out. They already loved you, no matter what.” Her face is sincere.

    I know she is referring to what I said before the story began. I dip my eyes. “I know.”

    Just then, the door to the room opens again, and in step Aunt Gerda and Dr. Yutgraf. Dr. Yutgraf looks reluctant, but Aunt Gerda seems relieved. She is walking a bit taller now than she was when she stepped out.

    Hannah steps away to give room for Dr. Yutgraf. She looks at Aunt Gerda. “So they extended our credit?” I hear her whisper.

    Aunt Gerda nods. “For another month,” she says. Then her face falls. “But if we can’t find another source of income by the end of that month, then we can’t afford her medicine anymore.” Her gaze flicks over in my direction, and I see her put on a mask of confidence as she smiles warmly at me.

    I smile back, and act as if my hearing is not as good as it really is.

    Dr. Yutgraf looks me over. “Do you have any bed sores, Miss Sophie?” he asks as he carefully checks my pulse.

    “No, sir,” I reply. “I’m fine, thank you.”

    “Um, hmm,” he harrumphs in reply, checking something off on his clipboard. Then he switches out the bag above my head for a fresh one, carefully connecting the tubes that lead from the plastic vessel into my arm. “This should last you the rest of the day and on into the night,” he assures me.

    “Thank you,” I repeat, as he walks out the door, without another word to my aunt or sister.

    “He seemed curt,” Hannah says to Aunt Gerda as they both sit on the bench beside my bed. Her brow furrows in disapproving annoyance.

    Aunt Gerda sighs, suddenly looking weary again. “I had to argue with him for ten minutes before he agreed to extend our credit for even a month.”

    Hannah rubs our aunt’s thin, frail form with a tender expression. “I can get a job, you know. Help pay the debt.”

    “No.” Aunt Gerda looks up sharply. “I will not have you missing school to help with my financial responsibilities. Your education and Sophie’s medical care are my primary concern. My concern. Don’t you girls worry about anything. I promised your dear parents I would look after you, and I aim to do just that.” She pulls on her gloves and grabs her handbag, before standing and preparing to leave, the topic clearly closed.

    Hannah sighs, and stands to follow her.

    Both of them stop by my bed and smile down at me. Aunt Gerda wipes my bangs from my eyes again. “The train will be leaving soon,” she says. “We’ll see you next weekend, all right?”

    I can nod a little now. I take advantage of it.

    Hannah grasps my hand once again. “Catch that butterfly,” she whispers in my ear as Aunt Gerda waits by the door.

    I smile and nod again, remembering the blue swallowtail. “I’ll try.”

    “I expect to see it in a jar when we get back,” Hannah’s grinning now.

    “That’s what you say every week.”

    Hannah winks in reply, and turns away. Before I can blink, she and Aunt Gerda are both gone, again.

    I sigh. And I wish away all of our problems. And I wish to touch the butterfly. Just once.

    One Month Later

    Tears stain my pillow as I writhe and contort in fresh pain, my cries echoing up and down the halls. My eyes are squeezed shut in agony, as my heart throbs and my spine jerks and rocks with spasms. I gasp. It even hurts to breathe. It didn’t used to. None of the pain used to be as bad as this.

    Hannah holds my head and tries to speak soothing words to me, but her tears are falling as well, splashing into my face, mingling with my own tears. My eyes open for an instant, and I see her turn a desperate face to Aunt Gerda and Dr. Yutgraf, who are both standing at the foot of my bed. “Can’t you do something?” she pleads. “It’s killing her!”

    Dr. Yutgraf shakes his head. “Even if your aunt had enough money to pay for the morphine, the poison is finally taking its toll. It has been for several years. There’s nothing we can do for her.”

    “Doctor, please!” Aunt Gerda’s voice is harsh and strained with stress and emotion. “Can’t you mince your words in front of the child? She’s only seven years old!”

    Dr. Yutgraf looks sharply at her. “You should be thanking me, Miss Juniby. If not for my good graces, she wouldn’t have even lasted this long.” He turns his gaze to me, all cordiality now gone from his expression. “It’s time for even Sophie to face facts. Ever since birth, she’s been destined to d—”

    Hannah plugs my ears before I can hear the rest of the word. But I see Aunt Gerda’s face go white, and then a deep shade of red. She stares shocked at Dr. Yutgraf for an instant, before exploding in shouts and insults at the heartless man.

    Another wave of pain shoots from my toes to the roots of my hair, and I squeeze my eyes shut again, hiccupping in sobs of misery.

    Hannah bends down close to my ear, releasing it from her left hand. I can feel her hot, teary breath and soft hair tickling my cheek. “Sophie,” she whispers. “Sophie, listen to me. I need you to think about that butterfly, okay? Just think about that butterfly. What color are its wings?”

    I am shaking uncontrollably, but I bite off another holler of pain, my breath uneven and sporadic. I try my best to visualize the pipevine swallowtail. “It’s w-wings a-a-are—blue-ue,” I gasp. More tears squeeze from my eyes. “A-and-d th-th-they…agh…h-h-a-ave o-orange spots with—with yellow—ow—outlines!”

    “That’s good, that’s good,” Hannah sniffles. She rubs my arms. “Where is the butterfly now?” Her voice is calm, soothing.

    I focus on her voice. I let it carry me to the field of flowers, to my favorite spot under the oak tree. I let my sister’s voice bring me into my dreams. And I focus as hard as I can on keeping the picture in my mind. “The butterfly is in the—the periwinkle section.” The edge of the pain fades to a dull ache, radiating outward from my heart.

    Hannah hums an affirmative reply. “Can you walk to the butterfly? Can you reach out to it for me and tell me what it feels like?”

    I try my best to obey her. I bite my lip to keep the sobs at bay, and in the garden, I stride over to the periwinkles with tall, strong, confident steps. The butterfly is mere feet away from me, resting calmly on a bush, its wings beating once every few seconds. I reach out. I feel the warm sun on my skin, feel my arm tingle with its rays as I stretch my hand out toward my dream.

    “I can see it,” I whisper, excitement pounding in my heart. “I almost got it!”

    My sister strokes my hair in response.

    I’m an inch away from the butterfly now.

    And then an electrifying spasm causes me to jerk almost into an upright position, and I scream, my eyes opening wide, the garden fading away.

    Aunt Gerda is at my side in an instant, reaching underneath me, trying to massage the pain from my spine, while Hannah’s tears begin afresh, and she rubs my arms even harder.

    I groan loudly, one long, agonizing groan. I can’t stop even when the doctor warns that I’m going to scare away all the other patients.

    Hannah finally clutches me to her breast, and rocks back and forth, her whole body shaking with sobs. “I’m sorry,” she cries. “I’m so sorry.”

    “That’s it,” I hear Aunt Gerda moan, above my gasps of pain. I can just picture her throwing her hands in the air, like she always did in my earliest memories, back when the poison was still weak enough that I could stay at home. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m taking Sophie home.”

    Hannah holds me tighter. “Aunt Gerda, no! She’ll die without her medicine!”

    Tears choke up our aunt’s voice as she replies, “We can’t afford any more medicine, anyway, Hannah. I’m so sorry. We’ve done all we could possibly do. At least we can make her comfortable, before she is reunited with your parents…”

    “Sophie isn’t discharged until I say she is,” Dr. Yutgraf growls. “You know the law for the terminally ill.”

    “Yes, I know the law!” Aunt Gerda snaps back, her eyes narrow. “But I also know that quality of life should still be considered a priority. Something this country seems to have forgotten in the past seven years!”

    “Don’t make me report you to the police for slandering the Western State Government,” the doctor warns.

    “My niece is dying, and all you care about is protecting the Prime Minister from slander?!” Aunt Gerda shrieks.

    As Hannah cries harder from hopelessness, another wave of pain aims at my skull, and my whole body tenses, before I finally go limp, and all goes black.

    When I awaken, I hear the sound of railroad tracks, and bright, warm sunshine fills my face. I open my eyes, and find myself sitting upright in a four-poster bed, with thick covers and fluffy pillows supporting my weak spine. Four walls surround me. Four wooden walls with bright, glossy polish and dark stain around the trim. Along the walls to my left and to my right are big, bright windows. Outside, grassy plains pass by, with trees every second or two. The wall in front of me has a door. A small door. Not like the big one that led to my hospital room. And on either side of the door is a petite dresser. On top of one is a bowl with a washbasin and pitcher, and a towel folded and to the side.

    I suddenly realize that I am not in pain. I look at my left arm, and I see a hose leading from the inside of my elbow to a bag suspended from a hook on the wall behind me. My brow furrows. I thought we couldn’t afford any more medicine.

    The door suddenly opens, and Hannah walks in, smiling sadly at me.

    “What’s going on?” I ask, my voice hoarse.

    Hannah strides over and perches cautiously on the edge of my bed. She sighs, a long, deep, mournful sigh, a sigh with the weight of the world on it. I’ve never heard her sigh like that. She wipes her eyes. “After you passed out,” she begins, “Aunt Gerda argued with the doctor for a full hour, trying to convince him to discharge you. Because you know the New Laws give the hospitals power to care for the terminally ill at their discretion.”

    I nod. That’s why I was never allowed home after the first spasms sent me to the ER. Aunt Gerda thought I was asleep when she explained that to Hannah.

    Hannah gulps. “He wouldn’t let you go,” she says, her voice and chin quivering. “So Aunt Gerda waited until nightfall. Then she sent me to snitch a bag of morphine while she snuck you out the window. We also went to the bank and…and sold the house.”

    “Sold the…” I gasp, and my heart beats painfully. “No…not the house!”

    “It’s fine.” Hannah waves it off. “We’ll manage. But we needed the money. It paid off enough of our debt that we were able to take out one last loan, to buy this train ticket. We’re on our way East. The border is coming up soon. If the police don’t catch us in time, we’ll soon be free. Maybe we can start fresh. Get you to a new hospital. One that will be kinder. The whole East will be kinder.” Hannah’s leaning forward now, her eyebrows high, her eyes wide. She’s using her daydreaming voice, as if she’s trying to convince herself as well as me that she’s right. “I’ve heard stories about the East. About how, after the Nine Months’ War, after we built the American-Longitudinal Wall, the new Eastern President spread peace and prosperity. I heard he retained all the basic freedoms written in the Constitution, the original one. I’m sure if we make it across the border, they can help us!” Her smile is bright.

    But my heart twinges with doubt. I see that Hannah’s eyes are too bright. Realization dawns. I know that look. That is the look that sets in when desperation and hysteria have taken their toll on a person’s soul. That is the look that takes hold when a frantic, panicked mind is on the brink of giving into insanity. I’ve only ever seen that look in the eyes of other patients passing by my hospital room. Patients who are terminally ill, but won’t ever be discharged from the hospital. Patients who go to extreme ends to grasp a last straw of freedom before death.

    This poison hasn’t broken me. It’s broken my family…through me.

    I sigh and lean back, hopelessness finally setting in. I suddenly feel so old. So old and worn down.

    I’m dying.

    This is my last straw. My last desperate grasp at freedom. I close my eyes and squeeze out a tear. An image of blue spotted wings floats into my mind’s eye, and I smile despite myself. If I must die, at least I will have one last chance at touching those wings, before I go.

    Hours pass by, and still the train moves on. Hannah is joined by Aunt Gerda. Together, the two sit at my bedside, and tell me stories, stories about how we’ll soon be free. I smile at their stories, recognizing the shared look of desperation in their eyes. And I resign myself to the fact that I am dying.

    Night falls. Just as the moon rises bright and full, the train suddenly slows, and we hear the conductor call for tickets…and passports. I hear his footsteps gradually work their way to the back of the train, towards my room.

    “We must go.” Aunt Gerda’s voice breaks the near-complete silence. “Hannah, open the window.” She stands as Hannah obeys, and reaches for my medicine bag.

    “What’s going on?” I ask.

    Aunt Gerda’s eyes are bright with moisture, and her mouth is set in a grim line. “We couldn’t get passports,” she replies. “We have to make a run for it from here. Sneak past the guards.”

    I groan. My spine tenses in an unfelt spasm. I suddenly lose feeling in my legs.

    “Can you stand?” Aunt Gerda grabs my bag and rips the covers off of me.

    I shake my head sadly. The loss of feeling suddenly creeps up to my torso. I gasp. “I’m going into paralysis!”

    “Oh, no.” Aunt Gerda looks desperately at Hannah, who has just finished opening the window. Hannah silently takes one last look at the door to the rest of the train cart, quickly strides over, and shoves a dresser in front of it. “We can still make it,” she says in a low voice, looking back at us.

    Aunt Gerda nods once. She sticks the top of my almost-empty bag in between her teeth, and grips it in her jaw. Then she hooks her arms underneath mine, while Hannah grabs my legs. Hannah backs carefully out of the train window first, taking my useless legs with her. Then Aunt Gerda hangs as far out as possible herself, before letting Hannah take hold of my entire body so she can climb out the window.

    Once my head is out, I look at the bright, starry sky, and at the grass, which is illuminated by the moon’s silvery light. I smell the wet, dewy smell of clean dirt, and feel the soft breeze on my face. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced anything other than the hospital. Perhaps this isn’t so bad, after all.

    “Oh, mercy, no!” I look back to see Aunt Gerda tugging desperately on the hem of her dress, which is caught on an old nail in the windowsill.

    “Hurry, Aunt!” Hannah hisses, as the sound of fists pounding on the wooden door floats out from the train car. “They’ll soon be after us! We must hide in the bushes before they see!”

    “I know, I know.” Aunt Gerda gives a final mighty tug, and her dress breaks free in a long, agonizing rip. A good piece of the hem is now missing, and her petticoat is visible underneath. Aunt Gerda examines it and gives a sigh. “It can’t be helped.” She takes my legs and carries my bag in her mouth, before nodding once to Hannah.

    Wordlessly, they both begin to run, suspending me between them. My paralysis is now covering all but my upper neck and head, so I can’t move no matter what they do. I feel like such a dead weight. Useless. But I cling to the hope that perhaps on the other side of the American-Longitudinal Wall, I will be cured, and finally be able to repay my family for all their sacrifices.

    A shadow forms in the distance. I can see it intermittently as my head bobs up and down behind Hannah’s shoulder. It is the Wall. Freedom calls, just on the other side.

    Then there’s a shout behind us. The alarm has been raised. My heart jolts as I hear the barking of search dogs.

    “We’re not far enough!” Hannah cries, slowing down.

    “Keep going! We have to try!” Aunt Gerda grunts back.

    The jolt of my heart caused my pulse to quicken, and I groan as I catch a glimpse of the bag Aunt Gerda is carrying in her mouth.

    It’s completely empty.

    Five hundred yards from the Wall, the first spasm rocks my spine, and I cry out, my body twisting and contorting beyond my control. Other spasms follow, one for every beat of my heart, and I jerk and scream with every one.

    The shouts behind us grow closer. The barking dogs chase after us.

    A final spasm sends me into such a seizure that I bring Hannah and Aunt Gerda down with me, and we all collapse into the soft grass. I grit my teeth and groan.

    Hannah’s wet face looms into view. She picks up my head and cradles it. “I’m so sorry, Sophie,” she sobs. “We tried. We tried.”

    “It won’t be long now,” I hear Aunt Gerda say in a low voice, void of emotion. “They’ll catch us. You know what that means, girls.” She grips our hands.

    “I was going to die either way.” I don’t even feel any emotion when I say it. A weird feeling of peace settles over my shuddering body. I look around, taking in the beautiful prairie landscape before me. “Thank you for taking me outside, just this once, so I could see it before I die.” My face grows wet.

    Hannah sobs harder and buries her face in my chest. “I love you, Sophie. I wanted so much for us.”

    “I love you too,” I reply. “It’s okay. This is all I ever wanted. Just to be outside. To see the butterfly. To be with the whole family. I soon will.”

    “And I love both of you, so very much,” Aunt Gerda enfolds us both in her strong, thin arms. “Look on that Wall, girls. Gaze upon freedom. Freedom from pain. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from death. Soon we’ll be across it.”

    All three of us gaze one last time at that Wall. Somehow, I know the swallowtail butterfly will be waiting to greet me on the other side.

    Then I hear the dogs barking just behind us. I hear several short, bursting explosions as my heart convulses in one final spasm of pain.

    And the sun rises on the garden of my dreams. The Wall is behind us. We’re across.

    I let go of Hannah’s and Aunt Gerda’s hands, and twirl around, gazing with a huge smile at the beautiful colors around me. Flowers sprout from every spare inch of earth. The tree rises in the distance, offering shade from the warm, summer sun. Bees hum. Birds twitter. I laugh.

    Then I look, and I see a pink petunia bush right in front of me. I kneel down, and I see the blue spotted wings. My butterfly is sipping calmly from the bloom.

    I reach out.

    I cup my hands.

    And the butterfly’s wings brush my fingertips.

    And I hear a call. I look up, and I see the faces of my mother and father smiling down at me, with Hannah and Aunt Gerda on either side. I jump up into their arms. They embrace me.

    Ahyek nahd feltin'or rempak.
    I'm not promising anything.

    #55688
    I, David
    @i-david

    @cassie-hartfinh Yay, our first short story! Thanks for being brave enough to go first. I look forward to reading this!

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #55689
    Cassie Hartfinh
    @cassie-hartfinh

    @i-david *bows and tips hat, then falls flat on face* Let me know exactly what you think of it!

    Ahyek nahd feltin'or rempak.
    I'm not promising anything.

    #55719
    A Kitchen Sink
    @hgm_barnes18

    Hello, world. I have dabbled in short stories meself, but I feel like I’m not very good at them. Like @parker was saying, books just seem easier… for me, I think it’s because it gives me more time to spread out my three act structure. My short stories are always either too short and then they’re just flash fiction, or too long and they’re just not well-paced.

    However, I’ve written a few that are actually okay, and my favorite short story I’ve done is a speculative fiction seven-part series. .-. *< that face is not a meh face, [coughs] it’s an upside down smile*

    "If you called out to the void loud enough... hard enough... would the void answer back?"

    #55804
    Libby
    @libby

    Hi y’all,
    I love reading and writing short stories.  I will get around to @cassie-hartfinh ‘s hopefully sometime soon!  I’ve written some that I am proud of, but those were a little while ago.  I consider writing short stories easier than novels, by the way.  Not sure why, but I novels take a lot more thinking through! 😉

    "Young people, you must pray, for your passions are strong and your wisdom is little."C.H.Spurgeon

    #55805
    Cassie Hartfinh
    @cassie-hartfinh

    @libby Novels definitely take more thinking and processing, but you know what’s cool? If you write a bunch of short stories and add them together, chances are you might have written the equivalent of a full-on novel! So you know you can write that much already. All you gotta do is think of a story you want to tell. I’m currently working on a short story after just finishing my fourth novel, but afterwards I want to write a Tolkien-worthy fantasy series! Perhaps one with parallels to Revelations.

    Ahyek nahd feltin'or rempak.
    I'm not promising anything.

    #55871
    I, David
    @i-david

    @hgm_barnes18 @libby Glad you guys joined the conversation! Feel free to share whatever short stories of yours that you love!


    @cassie-hartfinh
    I shall now commence the reading of your wonderful short story! *Grabs caffeine injector*

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

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