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In the Name of God بسم الله

Short Stories Thread (Competition)

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Posted (edited)

The Embrace

The cold froze Joyce's face, numbed her fingers, burned her nose. Flurries of ice coated the grass, sprawling with a slow dampness that could be seen as far as the muted orange-blood horizon laid in the distance. Puffs of white air escaped Joyce's mouth with her hard exhales, sighs, grunts. She grunted a lot these days; sighed to dissolve the stirring anger that often threatened emotional upheaval.

She wondered how she could remain good. Purely good. Her sister, Katherine, had hated goodness. She had set-out to become one of those big names, something alternative and edgy, with punk-rock hair frazzled in copious amounts of beach, stripped to a frayed crisp, with smeared makeup and heavy eyeliner. Somewhere dreamers went to escape life itself, to remain a youthful mess. That was Katherine's choice, another one of those: "I'm not you!" meltdowns that became full-fledged rebellion with outstretched wings. 

 Badness, Joyce thought, was overrated. Katherine would soon tire of her intentional wounded, self-tortured persona. That the phase would simply run its course. Even rivers joined each other. 

When the sun grew white and the sky cleared of its mist, she stomped her boots on the dingy WELCOME mat, thumping until the ice melted and made a pool of grimy, mud-colored slop, shuddered. 

The heater had been broken for days now, and Joyce had no money to fix it. She was too busy taking care of her mama, anyhow. She layered her mama in thick woolen shawls and MeeMaw's old coat. An old plug-in heater was in her mama's room, and it helped the room stay relatively toasty. (Joyce kept herself wrapped in layers of clothing, even when she slept.) Her mama sat on Joyce's childhood rocking chair, which was now in the living room, and she rocked herself with it. She stopped talking after Joyce's father died. Broken-heartedness did that to you, if you let it run over your heart. Now her mother looked at nothing most days, stared at the running TV, ate her food whenever Joyce made a plate of something warm.

"Mama," Joyce said, smiling. Playing with the messy braids she had made for her the day before. "Let's make you pretty today, that sound good? You'll feel a lot better." 

No answer.

Joyce brought her mother to the old bathroom, sat her on a small chair. She opened her mother's braids and combed them through, sighed. "Oh, Mama your hair looks so nice. Why don't we brush it out, put some makeup on." Her mother stared at her reflection in the mirror. Joyce looked at her mother, then at herself. She bore no resemblance to her, no eyes, no laugh lines. She was all her father. Which was sad, since her mother was beautiful once, and her father was always plain and homely, with broad features that hardly suited her. She sighed, and began searching the drawers. 

A sharp knock on the front door sprung through the house. Joyce grunted, planted a smile on her face, and walked to the front. 

She opened the door. "You're finally staying?" Her smile faded into a hard line. 

It was Katherine, with large, black shades in the god-damn winter, with a black coat, dark lipstick, and skin powdered two shades lighter. She didn't smile, take off her sunglasses. "Like hell I am. You know I'm never coming back to stay in this dump. Look at it." She kicked the edge of the door with her heavy boot. "This place is falling apart." 

"Why are you here, Katherine? To berate me for staying?" 

"Well," Katherine peered inside, "why don't you invite me in? I wanna see my mama." 

Joyce sighed and said, "All right, come in. But keep your coat on. The heater's blown."


"And stomp your feet. Don't melt tracks all over the floor. And take off your damn sunglasses."

She stomped grudgingly, staring at Joyce. "Happy?" She retorted, and waltzed in. 

Joyce hung back as she saw Katherine greet her mother and kiss her on the cheek, repeating, "I've missed you so much, Mama" until she sighed and ushered Katherine out of the room. Katherine sat on the sofa across from Joyce. 

"Tell me why you're really here." Joyce said. 

"I'm not here to drag you down, Little Sister. You've put your whole life on hold. For mama."

"And that's what good people are supposed to do." 

Katherine held her palm up. "Don't interrupt me. Just please let me speak." 

Silence filled the air with tension and shame, old hurt. Until:

"I know--I know you've been working hard. Taking care of Mama. You've questioned my choices, and I'll admit that I wasn't always in the right. I left you in a tight spot, for years. I know this. And, we've hurt each other real bad. So, for that--what I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry. I know you've been struggling. And I just think it's time--time to move on." 

Katherine glanced at her mama in defeat. "I just think you have to accept that you can't do this anymore. Come with me. To Los Angeles. You can live with me for a while. And I'll pay for Mama's nursing home. All the expenses. I mean it this time." 

It sunk in, that feeling of hopeless, the veneer of happiness that she kept on, that mask was finally cracking enough for someone to see. Joyce said, tears flowing down her face, voice cracking, "What makes you think I'd believe you? That you won't abandon me again. That this isn't another one of your empty promises?" 

"I promise, I promise. I promise you, Joyce. I'm not making an empty promise this time. I can deliver. You have to trust me. Do you want to stay in this dump? Or do you want to make sure Mama's taken care of properly? You've been spreading yourself thin for too long." 

Joyce wiped her silly, useless tears. Her hands were shaking and she was fuming. She felt it all: the pain of loneliness, which she attempted to hide from even herself, all the years of giving, giving, giving with nothing to show for it. The isolation, the fear of the unknown. A broken family, and the disappointment she could no longer sigh her way out of. She was grieving: a full-blown, messy grieving. 

"I'll give you until tonight. Think about it. Please." Katherine gave Joyce an awkward hug. 

Katherine looked at her mother. She'd sit there, her mama, until someone helped her get up. She'd be there after Joyce's crying. She'd be there in that small bathroom, waiting for something different to happen, and she would forget it the next day. 


Edited by Caroling
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  • 2 weeks later...
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I liked your discription and building up the tension - I wanted a positive end, but felt you left it hanging.  Maybe you feel life is like that.

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On 1/15/2021 at 8:43 AM, Dave follower of The Way said:

I liked your discription and building up the tension - I wanted a positive end, but felt you left it hanging.  Maybe you feel life is like that.

Thanks for the compliment. 

I personally like open endings for the reader to determine what decision the main character will take based on their perception of the story. And yeah life is a mystery and can’t always be wrapped up in a pretty little bow. 

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On 1/5/2021 at 4:50 PM, Caroling said:

Steps for the writing competition:

1. Write a Short Story

2. Title your Short Story

3. Once enough people have posted, we will begin a voting process. Whoever wins the most points, wins the writing competition!

Were you trying to write poetry or a short story?

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X woke up to what seemed to be another day filled with strife, his surrender to the subs-conscious was no more, once again it was time to be delivered to the room of bludgeoning which occupied his capricious mind. 

The alarm screeched incessantly and his nerves joined in to pulsate to the beat of the wretched clock, he could feel his blood starting to boil and with no need to look at a mirror he knew that his eyes were bloodshot red.

His heart continuing to beat rapidly, as tears trickled down his cheeks, it took every ounce of strength to lift the covers and jump out of bed. And an even greater inner strength to resist lifting the heavy metal clock and strike his face with rage. 

X did not fear the pangs of pain, nor did he out of his qualms give way to the temptation of suicide, although through it he would brave death within it there is tied the fear which is escaping life that comes through suicide.

It wasn’t mental illness or disability that had left X in such distress, nor a covetousness towards those who seemingly had more, rather it was something much more intricate that made X bitter. The hypocrisy of humanity which he thought to be at the core of mankind’s insanity, the strange love they hold in awe of themselves and the hysteria which occupies their denial that would persist.

Knowing deep down inside out of an honesty that stemmed from X’s sincerity, somewhat vain in description some may think to themselves, it is only only through such honesty that one can come to terms with the self. It is out of the shedding of one’s own skin to lay undisguised facing reality through vulnerability. Such can only come through strength and remarkable bravery.

X hated life it was no surprise, it was out of his unparalleled love for the fellow man and the intense fervor that lay dormant inside. 

Stumbling across the room with a terrible curvature in his back X could no longer carry himself, the dream to stand with his shoulders back was tossed in the abyss with other dreams he once had. 

Sickened and bitter he thought to himself, today is the day I will let them all know - not that their recognition would bring value to himself or that through his declarations therein would lie a subtle attempt to reaffirm what he denied to be his thoughts conspiring against his self. Detestable he believed such assertions to be, he often mocked those who would restate beliefs to delude themselves.  

To the deepest point of the city he’d tread, a place where X surely did dread, for it was infested with human life. With every step he took closer, the beast within him raved and roared as the flames in him did not rest. I will let them know and I won’t be kind X continued to utter, the highest building I will surely climb and its peak I’ll raise my voice. It was a rocky road to the heart of war, an internal conflict that would soon come to overflow. 

Finally to the pinnacle X did reach, for the first time ever he stood up straight and his shoulders back with a glare so strong it could paralyze. With these shackles I will be held no more and to these inhabitants of the globe no mercy I shall surely show. Before his storm could let out a strike, he lost his balance and plummeted low. 

This is the end he thought to himself a ticking bomb that turned to implode, although a failure for his anger to be unleashed. X was finally able to plummet down to where he’d surely be at peace. His final thoughts came from the lines of Edward Munch - “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them, and that is eternity.”


Edited by Mohammad313Ali
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27 minutes ago, hasanhh said:

@Mohammad313AliYou mixed your metaphors and confused your verbs,  D-

I always appreciate your helpful remarks generally and when it comes to writing specifically, if you have the time could you perhaps share with me some examples? I remember a while back I asked for some pointers and your insights were very helpful JazakAllah.

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15 hours ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

This is the end he thought to himself a ticking bomb that turned to implode, This is as saying, "the only way to go "out" (blow up = blow out) is to go 'in."

although a failure for his anger to be unleashed. Too many self-confusing words:  "he failed to anger."  You are writing about an alienated individual, correct?

Even professional writer have professional editors.

Basic question, as a lecturer always ask themselves: "Does my audience know what l am talking about?

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3 hours ago, hasanhh said:

This is as saying, "the only way to go "out" (blow up = blow out) is to go 'in."

I see, my intention here was to say that all the bottled up anger he was going to let out exploded within him, like a barrel filled with powder that’s ready to blow and then gets shut down with a lid, causing the explosion to collapse within.

3 hours ago, hasanhh said:

Too many self-confusing words:  "he failed to anger."  You are writing about an alienated individual, correct?

Okay so here I would be more wise with verb usage, what would be a viable way to say he wasn’t able to let out the fury that lay deep inside?

Edited by Mohammad313Ali
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1 hour ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

intention here was to say that all the bottled up anger

Check a thesaurus. Under 990, the words burst and explosion are there, but also fury, rage, storm and desperation.

As to your question, "kept to himself" should be a lead.

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On 1/18/2021 at 9:48 PM, Mohammad313Ali said:

Edward Munch - “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them, and that is eternity.”

Thanks for your story - maybe your style is to use mixed metaphores and other techniques - I'm happy to take it as it stands as your creative expression.

I felt though that there is more to life, there IS an answer.  Death is not the end even flowers growing out of a rotting body is nothing.

If only this person had met someone who offers light in darkness; hope in dispaire and transformation for brokenness.

Jesus the Messiah said "come to me you who have heavy loads and I will give you rest"

Paul talking about the transformation God offers said "If anyone is in the Messiah they are a new creation the old has past - The new has come"

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The path was edged with trees in all their greenness.  There were flowers of every colour bowing and dancing.  He floated cloudlike above the grass moving towards the glowing city.  In front, a man in shining white showing him the way.

Without warning he fell with a bump to the ground.  His bed was damp and cold.  The first rays of cold morning greyness were breaking through the torn curtains and cracked windows.  Why wasn’t life like his dreams?  Where were the flowers and trees?  The peace and the rest? 

Most of all he needed guidance.  Life was full of hard and painful choices.  Should he lie at work to get money to support his family?  Should he steal bread from the street vendor to feed his wife and children?

As he got up the call to prayer rang out across the roof tops, running between the alleyways. – “Prayer is better than sleep”. 

“Is that true?” he wondered, “Maybe work is better than sleep, … or even prayer”. 

“What use is prayer anyway?”  He said under his breath.  “God never listens to my prayers, if he did, I would be in a better situation than I am today.”

He splashed some water onto his face from an old bucket which stood in the corner of the room, trying not to disturb his sleeping wife and children all crowed together in the cold basement room.  He didn’t have breakfast.  Leaving it for his family, he made his way to the mosque at the end of the street.

Clean shiney windows, polished marble floors, pillars rising to the sky.  Acres of soft padded carpet greeted him as he slipped unnoticed into the back.  He only had worn out flip-flops to take off and couldn’t remember how to do wudu.  Kneeling at the back, he watched the other people praying.  Smart shoes left at the door, nice clothes, well-trimmed beards easily a fist length.  Rising and falling like a well oiled machine, the worshipers did everything without fault. Their pure white skullcaps emphasising each movement.

He looked on unnoticed as people left, counting their beads and reciting the names of God.

He stayed behind afterwards.  The mosque was empty.  He couldn’t pray.  The words were foreign and so far back in his memory.  He had no beard or skullcap.  Just himself and his thoughts, fears and shame.

“God be merciful to me, I’ve done shameful things” he said.

As he rose to leave, there was a lightness in his heart; a peace came over him and although he wasn’t sure, it was as if the man in white from his dream was walking ahead of him through the crowds.  He caught his light in the corner of his eye and knew that life had a meaning and direction.  He went to work with hope and joy.  God had met him.  His prayers had been answered.

Edited by Dave follower of The Way
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