Contest #221 shortlist ⭐️


Funny Speculative

Three, Violet dragged her tongue across her top front teeth, last chance to remove any stray lipstick. Two, she straightened her posture, ‘shoulders back and bust to the judges,’ her mother’s pageant mantra clanging in her ears. And…

“Well, hello there, you’re so welcome to afterLive, now let’s spend forever together! I’m Violet Misstep and this handsome devil is my co-presenter, and dearest friend, Benjamin Golightly.” Leaning across just enough to flash some well-scaffolded cleavage at camera one, she placed a hand on his arm. It was always good to sprinkle any emotion with a dose of tactility, it lent authenticity, even if it chafed like a polyester-mix.

“I’m excited. Wait until you hear what we’ve got planned today. It’s a line-up to die for.” Laughing at his own statement, Benjamin’s teeth beamed from his mouth like a security camera, as bright as it was off-putting.

“Well, Benjamin, there’s certainly no arguing with that. Stay tuned to afterLive, voted number one programme for the deceased. Back after these short commercials.” Waiting ten seconds for the live sign to flick off, Violet turned her cornflower blue eyes towards him. “I think you’d quite like to join our pulse-less audience, wouldn’t you Benny? Why else inflict that pathetic pun on me again unless you want me to rip that unimaginative tongue out of your throat live on air.”


“Gosh, you’re back, we missed you,” Violet’s faux chirpiness reached maximum.

“Sure did. So, Violet, what’s coming up today?”

“Well, Benjamin, our phone-in is an open call for anyone struggling with the transition to recently departed. Perhaps you’re finding it difficult to structure your time without sleeping or eating to give you a routine; maybe you’re worried that instead of a healthy interest in watching loved ones move on, you’re actually stalking them. Whatever your problem, our Agony Aunt, Mallory, is eagerly awaiting your distress. Remember, get your living bill payer’s permission and, of course, borrow their fingers for the dialling.”

Violet gave her face temporary respite from smiling, whilst the team rolled a short video of Mallory multi-tasking, looking both concerned and nodding. What a talent.

“Also, coming up - spending forever in the clothes you died in is tough. Our fashion guru will perk up your look, bring you up-to-decade and distract from those unsightly stains, missing body parts, and icky injuries with some colourful, well-placed accessories.”

Violet had the focus of an athlete. Her eyes were straight down the correct lens, mind lasered on the autocue, it didn’t matter what chaos was happening behind the cameras, Violet dominated the screen. Daytime TV was intended to be her stepping-stone to greatness, but eleven years later she was still here. Sure, she’d stormed her way from presenting the poxy competition segments to hosting the whole damn show but it still wasn’t primetime. And the audience weren’t even breathing. Some days it felt like the show had wrapped a noose around her throat and her career.

Having exceptional observation skills, Violet noticed a sweaty junior researcher eyeballing her, paws gripping a pink cue card. Flapping her hand somewhere between royal wave and a fish impersonation, she ushered the girl forward whilst Benjamin was doing his puff-piece. The mouse scurried toward her, bobbing down idiotically in front of the, currently non-operational, camera. Violet tutted her despise for the unseasoned, snatching the card from the extended little claws. Warm and moist to the touch, she held it with the tips of her manicured fingernails, shooing its messenger.

“Again, you’re doing this to me, again? Do only idiots work here now? Tell me, is there anyone I can speak to who can find their arse with both hands?” Violet couldn’t believe she was reading about another last-minute segment change. Why did she have to sit in those tedious production meetings and argue with the vest-wearing, carb-devouring, coffee-stained trolls if they were then going to force her to sell

bullshit anyway? And then to inform her via stuttering, faceless mouse mail, cowards.


“Up next folks, we’re joined by Dr Ivanka. A world-renowned post-life sex therapist. Just because your heart no longer beats, doesn’t mean it can’t feel. You should still experience love and orgasms. And, let’s face it, a dead soulmate can say ‘forever’ and mean it. Something none of my ex-boyfriends ever could,” Violet embellished her delivery with a jovial lilt.

“Amen to that,” said Benjamin, debasing her subtlety with his forced high-five.

“Dr Ivanka will demonstrate spectral-tantra, next.”


Violet stood up hurling the pink card across the studio. “What happened to my original piece on losing individual identity in mass deaths?” The crew fiddled with their equipment, no-one meeting her eyes. The voice in her ear spoke slow and soft, like he was doing the verbal equivalent of bomb disarmament, ‘a corporate decision…everyone loved your piece…the ratings.’

“Give Benjamin the next link, he’s the expert on fake-tan anyway, I’m taking five.”

Violet stormed to her dressing room. The chair had been made especially for her, it provided the perfect postural support for her frame, it massaged her, it heated her when she was cold. It was more nurturing than she’d ever received from a human, but even the adept rhythmic pulsations in her back failed to lift her mood. The reflection staring at her from the backlit, wall-length mirror also botched that mission. She stretched the skin between eyebrows with her forefinger and thumb, and wondered if her trademark eyes were more humdrum sky or ocean, than cornflower.

You hold this show together,” she repeated it until a broad smile appeared convincing on her reflection’s lips. Not too broad though, wrinkles weren’t getting a free pass on her watch. Rising to her full height, plus six inches of stiletto heel, shoulders back and bust to the judges, she smoothed her pencil skirt and headed for the door.

The sound of her heels clacked against the polished floor tiles; she’d always loved the walk. That clacking, how the pace quickened as she got closer to the On Air sign above the big double-doors. She could always feel how the atmosphere shifted, like everything around her was speeding up yet quietening down. There was so much energy in it and each person had a purpose, scuttling around, and everyone and everything revolved around the presenter.

The sign was illuminated, then it flicked off and back on, now it was off again. Something was wrong. Violet’s heels were clacking but the energy coming from the main studio was compressed, no hint of hushed mania, no humming of coordinated action. She slipped through the doors.

“Get down.”

A woman. A voice not fit for broadcast. It was shrill, feverish even and filling the studio without any competition, swallowing the live energy, and replacing it with heavy, claggy air.

“On the ground, now.” 

Violet could taste it. The deliciousness of the opportunity, it was made for her, waiting for her to seize it. Disobeying her mother’s mantra, she channelled the researcher’s meekness in her body and looked up through her lashes, raising her palms to show she was no threat. This is a fan; she’ll recognise me. Her voice calm, layered with modelled sympathy, “hi, miss, I’m Violet, I want to help you, what do you need?”

Violet stepped over Benjamin’s pin-striped legs, he was laid face down on the floor, his body spanning the length of the gaudy mustard sofa, whimpering like a baby. Resisting the temptation to give him a little jab with the point of her heel, she moved towards the woman. Average height, average build, the woman was mediocre in every way, except for the large shotgun in her hands and that she obviously knew how to use it. Violet’s opportunity was packaged inside five-and-a-half feet of poorly fitted, off-the-rack clothing, no makeup and unwashed brown hair. Violet recognised a crisis when she saw it. Shame it wasn’t makeover day.

She watches you, this programme, religiously. Every weekday, all our TVs, smart devices, they all turn to you. We can’t change the channel or turn them off, we’ve stopped trying. It’s the only time she’s quiet. She just screams and shouts and wails all day, all night. Right into my face. I’ve tried everything. We can’t even move house, she promised, she cut a finger off and it’s hidden somewhere in our belongings, says we’ll never find it, she’ll always be with us. You need to make it stop; I don’t know what else to do. If not, I’ll kill everyone. I will, I’ll do it.”

The woman’s head shook frantically with each word, her sunken eyes with their dark circles unable to catch and hold Violet’s for any longer than a few seconds, but the shotgun remained steady and directed at the researcher’s skull. Should have picked a less disposable hostage.

“My gosh, I can hear your pain. You didn’t ask for any of this, it isn’t you. This woman, this dead woman, she’s pushed you to it. Let’s stop her together.” Violet took the vacant expression and lack of any physical movement as consent, getting closer. “Kenny is real important on our show behind the scenes, he’s in this earpiece, he can hear everything and he can talk to me through it. I’m gonna talk to him now. Kenny – are we still on air?”

“Fuck no Violet. She shot two security guards in both kneecaps to get in here. And, Steve, your camera-operator for five years, straight through the eye. We stopped broadcasting. She’s a crazy, murderous bitch,” said Kenny, sounding more unhinged than the time their Ghost Vet lost control of twenty-five ravenous hell hounds with behavioural problems. Now that was brutal.

“Great work, Kenny. You sort that technical glitch and get us back on the air. You, camera two, you’re now lead camera operator, get prepped. Whilst us girls have a chat.”

Violet was doing what she did best, taking over. Violet Misstep heroically interviews her own hostage-taker at gun point, co-presenter crumbled at her feet, beloved colleagues’ bodies scattered behind the cameras. Potential accolades took turns presenting themselves to her ego.  


“Viewers you’re joining us for a special live episode. We are being held hostage, fearing for our lives. Just fifteen minutes ago, our studio was breached, two brave security officers were severely injured and one man was murdered in cold blood. But, as you regular viewers know, here, we think everybody deserves their airtime. So, meet Lizzy, sat next to me on our very own sofa, deadly weapon, and my life in her hands. But what this poor woman has been through, that’s the real horror story. Stay with us, as I, Violet Misstep, interview a killer at gunpoint, here on afterLive.”

Violet ignored the scuffle happening between the newly appointed lead camera operator and the ghost of his predecessor, who apparently didn’t realise he was dead or that his eye was splatting back and forth against his cheek.

“Lizzie, tell our viewers, what you told me so bravely off camera about Candy and how she came to be in your life?”

“Should I erm keep this here or—”

“It’s fine right there.” You need me to tell you how to hold me hostage now, of course you should keep the gun pointed at the victim. Honestly, everyone’s incompetent.

“It was a year ago today. Candy was drunk, she broke into our home, it was a Wednesday, family night, so we were all out, bowling and then pizza. She went into our bedroom, that’s mine and my husband, Teddy, and she, well she killed herself.”

“So, Candy, a complete stranger to you, violates the loving home you’ve created for your two adorable young children, then proceeds to purposefully and selfishly shred her wrists, with your chef’s knife, on your four-poster bed. Now, that isn’t all there is to this story, is it?”

Taking the viewers through the sordid details of Teddy’s short affair with the much younger, pet portrait artist and part-time waitress, Candy. Followed by Candy’s after death antics in their family home, such as explicitly rehashing her sexual misadventures with Teddy; telling the children she was their ‘new mummy;’ petrifying Cauliflower, their puppy, into a Prozac dependency; and thrusting herself into their electrical circuits. Family and friends refused to visit them. The children could no longer have schoolmates over as Candy would fly through the house naked, screaming and bleeding, if only in spirit.

 “And I want to share this with you dear viewers, Lizzy here did something I’m not sure many of us could, she extended Candy compassion. She made sure her children were kind and respectful towards her, she even paid for a therapist to speak to Candy. But every act of kindness, every single effort you made Lizzy, it failed, didn’t it? Please tell us, what that feels like?” Come on Lizzy, give me tears.

“Exhausting, frustrating. I can’t take another minute. I begged Teddy, begged him to get her exorcised,” Lizzy gasped, clasping a hand to her mouth.

“Oh my, you were willing to risk your freedom and your soul.”

“I- I- I can’t sleep, think straight. Teddy wouldn’t, but she doesn’t terrorise him the same way as she does me and I can’t cope. If you can’t help me, I don’t know what to do. You’ve got to help us, Violet, please, I’m begging you or I’ll shoot myself live on air, right here, all over your sofa.”

That works too. 

“I am talking to you now Candy, I know you’re watching. You are torturing this family like some crazed, maniacal poltergeist not an intelligent, level four entity with an eternity ahead of you. Lizzy doesn’t deserve any of your antics, nor do those poor, sweet babes,” Violet paused, giving her sentiment time to play the audience.

“It’s Deadly Decree time, your favourite segment Candy, let’s stare truth in the face.” Violet swung around eyes direct to camera. “Teddy will not kill himself for you. You were a two-week mistake, a mid-life crisis, five years ago. You were forgotten about. You’re ill Candy, obsessed with someone else’s man, a man you can’t have and doesn’t want you, never wanted you. Our viewers have something to say too. Maryanne, thirty-years deceased, says ‘girl, you should be ashamed of yourself, what would your momma think?’ Let’s see, Glen who died last year in a traffic collision thinks you should ‘stop taking it out on the innocent and direct your rage at that two-timing Teddy.’  

Candy, you need our professionals’ help. They’ll support you, help you move on, hey, we’ll even help you find new love. A whole programme dedicated just to you. All you have to do is accept it. Contact us now, the number is on screen. Everyone in the studio, at home, let’s focus, pray, send psychic energy to encourage Candy to give Lizzy her family back.”

The fight had extinguished from Lizzy’s eyes, the gun across her lap now as deadly as a decorative cushion. Or any other cushion. Violet stretched across and placed a reassuring hand on Lizzy’s knee, tip of her shoe digging into Benjamin’s leg, “we’ve just made television history.” 

October 26, 2023 17:01

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


E.D. Human
14:24 Oct 27, 2023

Violet Misstep is a reporter you want on your side. Loved the side-sweep satire on gun ownership . Highly entertaining


Claire Marsh
10:19 Oct 28, 2023

100% wouldn't want to be on her bad side, poor Benjamin - I wonder if he ever made it off the floor?! Thank you for reading and commenting, and I'm so pleased you found it entertaining - means a lot to me.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Wendy M
08:30 Oct 27, 2023

So funny, and engaging! I could get to like Violet, in all her narcissism. Well done.


Claire Marsh
10:16 Oct 28, 2023

Thank you Wendy! I'm so happy you enjoyed it and her...she was a lot of fun to write, not sure I'd like to be her 'friend' though, if she has any, probably more likely we'd be frenemies or minions!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Julia Townson
13:37 Nov 06, 2023

I love the character of Violet. She's spunky, and witty.. caught up in a world of having to use her sexuality on camera, and be tactile.. "Mommy's mantra!" She knows what sells and appeals to the viewer. I love the sentence ending.. even if it chafed like a polyester mix... She's not everyone's cup of tea, she's relatable. She's real. Love the opening paragraph. Kudos!! I don't know why but the part about her "bust to the judges" reminded me of the classic Judy Blume novel.. "we must, we must, increase our bust" LOL :) Overall, great read....


Show 0 replies
Philip Ebuluofor
15:04 Nov 05, 2023

Congrats. I prefer the dead in the land of the dead and living here on earth. Let them leave us alone.


Show 0 replies
Audrey Knox
01:27 Nov 05, 2023

I really loved this. The story is so imaginative, and Violet's brutal ambition and internal monologue are both aspirational and unlikable. I really was wondering how she was going to solve this Candy problem from her studio chair and was on the edge of my seat wondering how she was going to be able to pull this off. I did feel the ending to be a bit of a let down. It cut off abruptly without giving us a real satisfying, interesting conclusion to the dilemma of Lizzy's story here.


Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
21:37 Nov 04, 2023

Think Violet is lucky Lizzy didn't send her to afterlife. Congrats on shortlist.🥳


Claire Marsh
10:55 Nov 05, 2023

Ha! Yes, absolutely Mary - although Violet would probably argue that was due to her exceptional investigative reporter skills!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.