Contest #177 shortlist ⭐️

97 comments

Fiction

Outdoors, it is a brilliantly sunny day in May, and the sunshine forces its way indoors unbidden.


Her apartment window is propped open, and a stiff breeze invades the studio, but no curtains billow: the room is empty now, its only decoration a mural of huge flowers in a riot of colors on a chipped and fading wall. She painted that mural with her own hands, but she thinks perhaps she should have put some of that effort into repainting the wall, as well. Now the too-loud colors of the flowers seem to scream at her from their deteriorating prison.


A clock ticks in the communal hallway, chewing away the seconds of silence as she ponders the mural longer than necessary. They are both killing time.


She roams her space, glad that walls can’t talk: they are nothing in her mind now but parallel lines fading into infinity. Openings to other rooms, simply intersecting parallel lines jetting off in different infinite directions. It vaguely conjures up charcoal-on-linen line drawings in her mind. She wonders if there is a word for that, something profound… but she can’t come up with it, and of course there’s nobody around to ask.


Wandering through the apartment toward the open window, she feels the freshly-shampooed carpet crunching slightly under her feet. It’s a difficult-to-describe sensation, yet one that so many have felt and would know: it’s the hallmark of a new beginning, and that of another someone’s ending. 


She tries to think of how she’d describe what she came here seeking, specifically, this one last time -- to try to put it into words even if just for herself: 


“Don’t worry, Mom, I’m just here to ______.” 


“Oh, hi, Ken, don’t mind me; I thought I’d _____.” 


She can't find the words; maybe it’s not the words that are the problem, after all.


Lowering herself onto the floor beside the open window, she spies a forgotten blue marble where it has lodged itself under the radiator. The globe has escaped notice, maybe over the course of many tenants. A slightly-dusty child’s prize, she imagines the thrill of a different child happening upon the hidden treasure at some point in the future; she leaves it untouched.


What treasures did she have from her time here? She needs a positive memory to take with her; she so badly wants to leave on a high note.


She idly realizes that a tiny white feather has floated on the breeze to within her reach. Gently, she surrounds the unanticipated gift with her palms and cups it. She holds it, bringing it to her heart… there: 


It’s the springtime of the year, and the geese have goslings. She saw them down at the park pond just two weeks ago and was particularly smitten by a little one that was slightly wobblier than the rest, that day. You don’t think about birds being less-than-graceful, but it gave her several minutes of amusement, watching it try to climb the bank out of the water after the others. She smiles again now, remembering how it made her smile, then.


She had made a mental note at that time to bring it some seed when she came again, but then life happened and she had never remembered to do so, she thinks with an emotion that feels similar to regret, and yet…


She opens her palms again and imprints the thought. A moment passes, then she coaxes the feather onto the windowsill, delicately releasing it, and watches it swept away again. The pang of longing she feels at that moment, that unrelated moment involving something so simple as a feather taking to the wind, is indescribable.


She remains at the window long past dark, bathing herself in night sounds and the scent of the wind. She likes freesia, sweet pea, jasmine … none of those smells are here, but the night air is crisp and clean.


A dog barks in the distance, and then another. A third joins, and the chorus howls in unison. She hadn’t even realized that it was a full moon until she glances out the window into the semi-darkened night.


A thought occurs to her, its absence marked after all this time: why didn’t she ever get a dog? They don't allow them here, but it would have been so nice to have one around, and it wouldn’t be the first rule she had broken. Some people don’t like doggy noises, but she would love it so much, she just knows. She would never punish her pup, never ever make it sorry for its God-given voice that celebrates happiness and sadness -- and alarm -- in its own vocal ways. She feels an anger toward those who would shame dogs for their dogginess, and a true kindred spirit with those beloved creatures. She wonders if she could get a dog soon and thinks ... maybe?


A sudden flash of a life passed here comes to mind. The room is tasteful, elegant, softly lit; music plays quietly in the background. The window is wide open, and gauzy curtains waft seductively in the night breeze. A glass of red wine decants next to a plated dinner which has grown cold. He is here too, unexpectedly.


She averts her eyes from the scene; it dissipates, except for him. Larger than life, he is a presence here still. 


Her belongings were put in storage, awaiting whatever comes next; she is a word which isn’t “terrified,” because that word isn’t right for the here and now. Terrified means there is a future to control, even if it is beyond control: a future in the known-but-still-scary. Hers is a future in the unknown; the thought causes her to suppress a shudder and take a gulp of fresh air. She tries to swallow it, but with the lump in her throat, she cannot: asphyxiation by strangulation, the coroner said. 


December 17, 2022 03:30

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97 comments

Raey Kubiak
00:38 Dec 27, 2022

As in the rest of the comments, I myself appreciate the sense of time and inevitable twist that the reader suspects of but cannot point a finger until the end. But a beautiful scene with the marble’s past and future owners is what triggered my suspicion about this not being a home removal. We’ll done, a very delicate piece.

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Wendy Kaminski
00:42 Dec 27, 2022

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for such a lovely comment! I really appreciate it. :)

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Rebecca Miles
06:45 Dec 26, 2022

I love how there is such a strong sense of time in this; it really os so fluid, all the slips back and forward. The free range of the piece makes the twist at the end just so effective as we're lulled into thinking of a possible future, complete with dog, just for it to be wrenched from is. Well done.

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Wendy Kaminski
16:25 Dec 26, 2022

Thank you, Rebecca! And you know, dogs do go to heaven, so... :) Appreciate you reading and commenting!

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Kelsey H
06:02 Dec 26, 2022

I really enjoyed this, it was very immersive and I really felt as if I was there walking through the apartment. I especially love how it had this dreamy feel so it wasn't totally clear what was happening. At first I thought she was moving out, then there are these little scenes which hint at darker things, and finally the ending which is not really stated but enough has been suggested to imply what happened to her.

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Wendy Kaminski
16:24 Dec 26, 2022

Thank you, Kelsey! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for taking the time to comment! :)

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Sri Vi S
10:39 Dec 25, 2022

A beautiful narrative with that title. Woven so well!

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Wendy Kaminski
14:38 Dec 25, 2022

Thank you very much!

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Liv Chocolate
08:52 Dec 25, 2022

Wendy! First thing's first--you KILLED it (no pun intended :D). When you start to get into the heavy topics of death, it takes a true storyteller to convey them without being melodramatic. You're a true storyteller. Like others have described so well in their comments, this seems light as a feather at first, which makes its weight at the end feel just that much heavier. "A clock ticks in the communal hallway, chewing away the seconds of silence as she ponders the mural longer than necessary. They are both killing time." I would've neve...

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Wendy Kaminski
14:37 Dec 25, 2022

Wow, thank you very much, Liv! This is incredibly flattering and I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to read and review!

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Zack Powell
21:10 Dec 23, 2022

Wanted to join the bandwagon of praise and say that this is beautifully-written, Wendy. I'm quite partial to these types of stories that are more character-driven than plot-driven, and I think you used your motifs well. Unsurprisingly, this whole thing felt like a mural itself, with your vivid colors and smells, the imagery, and the character study. Felt like I was looking at a tableau in an art museum instead of reading a story in the comfort of my house. Very impressive stuff. Also, I know not everyone's a fan of ambiguous endings, but I...

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Wendy Kaminski
22:30 Dec 23, 2022

Thank you very much, Zack, for the thoughtful read and review! :)

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Amanda Lieser
04:45 Dec 23, 2022

Hi Wendy! Oh my gosh! This one felt so tragic to me. I immediately knew something bigger was going on when I saw the blank spaces waiting for letters. I imagine as writers, we are even more attached to our words since they have managed to remain our bestest friends in good times and in bad. I think the power of your story really came from that final line. I’ve totally felt choked out by my own lumps in my throat before. Nice job!

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Wendy Kaminski
14:11 Dec 23, 2022

Thank you so much, Amanda! You really made my day with your flattering review! :)

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Laurel Hanson
20:25 Dec 22, 2022

Like this description: She roams her space, glad that walls can’t talk: they are nothing in her mind now but parallel lines fading into infinity. Openings to other rooms, simply intersecting parallel lines jetting off in different infinite directions. It vaguely conjures up charcoal-on-linen line drawings in her mind. Nice work with the mental landscape.

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Wendy Kaminski
00:20 Dec 23, 2022

Thank you so much, Laurel! :)

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V. Yura
21:04 Dec 21, 2022

It's incredible how the story feels warm and sunny yet melancholic and sad at the same time. And the ending... wow!

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Wendy Kaminski
21:14 Dec 21, 2022

Thank you! :)

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Graham Kinross
16:38 Dec 21, 2022

“ She needs to a positive memory to take with her,” needs to have? Her partner was strangled? Ouch.

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Wendy Kaminski
17:59 Dec 21, 2022

Well I kind of left it vague the end. In my mind, she was. But it looks like it was fairly open to interpretation, which I have to admit I sort of liked that there were so many variations on how people related to the ending.

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Graham Kinross
06:51 Dec 22, 2022

I didn’t think of it as her committing suicide, I thought her husband or boyfriend had been strangled so she was deeply depressed herself. Interesting that people can go into that last sentence with their own assumptions and make their own end of it.

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Wendy Kaminski
13:35 Dec 22, 2022

Thanks for the typo assist, by the way! Fixed ;)

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Stevie Burges
11:49 Dec 21, 2022

Wendy there are some great phrases and word flows in this piece. Quite beautifully written. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Wendy Kaminski
13:38 Dec 21, 2022

Thank you!

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Eric De Roulet
01:34 Dec 21, 2022

I really like seeing how the MC is rehearsing conversations in her head yet struggling to imagine how they would go. (The exact reason for this is made clear later, of course, but this is also a refreshing device for sharing a character's monologue.)

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Wendy Kaminski
01:37 Dec 21, 2022

Thank you for reading and for the comment, Eric! Appreciate you taking the time. :)

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David Drake
17:21 Dec 20, 2022

Lovely! Beautiful dialogue! I like the "blue marble" reference. That took me back. :)

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Wendy Kaminski
18:19 Dec 20, 2022

Thank you! 😊

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Jesse J
03:12 Dec 20, 2022

This is beautifully written! You do a wonderful job with describing senses and setting- not overly describing anything, just what's necessary to get the point across. The twist at the end really got me, I wasn't expecting it but it made sense with the hints throughout. Really love this! :)

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Wendy Kaminski
03:16 Dec 20, 2022

Thank you! Appreciate you reading and taking the time to leave such kind and encouraging comments. :)

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Lily Finch
02:56 Dec 20, 2022

Hi Wendy, The voice allows the reader in right away; we are one with the protagonist. Your word choice bangs home that point with your vivid descriptions. I suspected the woman would take her life but was surprised that she died by fear of the unknown. Interesting, as most people are a bit afraid to die and feel some of this angst too. The story has a good flow and great pacing. LF6

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Wendy Kaminski
03:00 Dec 20, 2022

Heya, Lily! I am so flattered at your review! I was going for her already being dead and afraid to move on from where she was killed, but it seems I have dramatically failed, since you aren't the only one who thought she killed herself at the end...maybe I'm the one who's wrong about how she died?? lol. :) I truly appreciate your review and comments every time I see them - thanks so very much for taking the time to read and reach out! :)

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AnneMarie Miles
03:24 Dec 19, 2022

Wow, this is absolutely beautiful. When I read the ending, I went back and reread the whole thing. It does feel like a poem. That final line really lends itself to universal speculation. How will we feel in our final moments? No one can describe that.

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Wendy Kaminski
03:32 Dec 19, 2022

Thank you, Anne Marie!

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Mary Lehnert
20:25 Dec 18, 2022

Thankyou so much. Wendy for the great compliment. I think I’m only one of countless others to appreciate your talent.

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Wendy Kaminski
20:28 Dec 18, 2022

Thank you, Mary, you are too kind. :)

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Susan Williams
13:19 Dec 18, 2022

Beautifully written. You brought out the feelings we sometimes just can't put our finger on. A sad reveal for an ending yes, but I couldn't help thinking there's a new beginning of something for her...

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Wendy Kaminski
15:28 Dec 18, 2022

Thank you, Susan! And yes, I believe there is. :)

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Dao Huy Kien
10:48 Dec 18, 2022

Enjoyed your beautiful writing style. It's difficult to describe vague feelings but you did an excellent job in this piece.

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Wendy Kaminski
15:30 Dec 18, 2022

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment; I am so pleased you enjoyed it!

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Hatt Genette
05:02 Dec 18, 2022

From the outset, reading this reminded me of the Sylvia Plath’s ‘Tulips’. The whole narrative seems to pair with that poem so well I have to ask if that was intentional?

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Wendy Kaminski
05:05 Dec 18, 2022

I have never heard of that poem. I will go read it, though, and thank you for pointing me in that direction!

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Hatt Genette
05:08 Dec 18, 2022

No problem :) screaming flowers just somehow always remind me of that poem.

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Wendy Kaminski
05:09 Dec 18, 2022

Whoa, that poem is incredibly evocative. I see the parallel, for sure. I was more thinking of a spirit world where particularly bright colors would stand out from the "mist" almost painfully as a reminder of a life you no longer occupied, screaming at you, as it were. Interesting, thanks for the exposure to something new!

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Hatt Genette
05:18 Dec 18, 2022

That’s okay; Sylvia can be quite a lot to take in.

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