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Thriller Horror Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window.


A candle I didn’t light.


I fumbled with the keys in front of the entrance, licked by the cab’s headlights one more time as it turned its rear lights on me. Heavy raindrops pattered on my umbrella and wet the bark of the sharp spruces piercing the blind night sky like obsidian spears. Goosebumps rose on my skin.


Craving the comfort of the artificial light that drowned into blackness as the driver left me behind, I pulled out my phone and glanced at the time. Five minutes past midnight. No reception. Several notifications taunted me; unopened messages.

That’s why I needed to take this woodland break, away from my practice. That’s why I booked the cabin with Infinity Stays.


“Dr Lee, I heard this terrible rumour that you had an affair with one of your–”


“I know you are supposed to be going on holiday, but can I book an appointment–”


“David, we broke up. Call me when you can. Jessica said she is suing you, but–”


“You call yourself a couples therapist? Disgusting. See you in court.”


“I want a full refund. Couples’ therapy was my wife’s idea, and we’re getting d–”


“Can I stay at yours tonight?”


Half-wanting to reply to the last one, I sank the phone into my pocket and embraced the dark.

There would be no more texts, as long as I stayed here. No more “you aren’t good enough”, no more demanding of my time. No more accusations of seducing my clients’ husbands and wives. 

Which I didn’t do. 

Didn’t plan. 

It just—happened.


The flame danced inside, its warm light glowing red like a warning sign.

Looking behind my back, I played with the thought of turning back; but I could no longer make out the road leading home.

The distant rumblings of the brewing storm spurred me on.

I better go in.


The key didn’t turn. Fuck. My pulse jumped. Jamming them into the keyhole repeatedly, I tried to turn the key without breaking it inside the lock.


‘For God’s sake!’


Leading with my shoulder, I threw my whole weight against the door. The rusty hinges screamed like nails on chalkboard as it pushed open. It was unlocked. My heart skipped a beat as I lost my balance and stumbled indoors. 


A fusty smell filled my nose. In the sparse space stood a wooden table and two chairs, covered in cobwebs, opposite the grimy kitchen units. Shadows lurked and yawned on every surface, cast by the dim, flickering light. The floorboards, dark with fresh mud, cried and squirmed under my trainers.


Closing my umbrella, I quietly placed it in the corner behind the door, suddenly hyper aware of the sound of my heartbeat, as I was trying to make the least amount of noise possible. A chill ran down my spine as my hand brushed against another two umbrellas, both still wet and presumably belonging to whoever lit the candle and made a mess of the floor. I swallowed. 


Whilst it was true I had made a few enemies, getting all tangled up in that affair, but… I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. Only the agents, so I was safe here. Still, I would have preferred they informed me, if there was to be a reception.


‘Hello?’ I called. My wavering voice hung alone in the dark silence. Whoever was here must have left in that other black cab we met on the bumpy dirt road that led to this dead end. It must have been the property agents, anticipating my arrival. There was no need to be paranoid. After all, the cabin had been abandoned for years, and there were no neighbours for miles. I sighed, trying to take my mind off the remote nature of my new residence, together with the uncalled-for intrusion. I was on my own. Only that mattered.


I needed something to distract myself from how different the atmosphere was from what I expected. Terrifying, rather than tranquil, but at least, there was no wifi. No phone signal. I would not be able to call a friend, but those death threats from divorcees couldn’t reach me either. 


I pulled out my notepad and a pen. It was dark, but I needed to attach these to the inventory on the lease.

That’s it.

A task to focus on.

Experience taught me that if I didn’t want to be blamed and lose my deposit, I needed to be thorough. In case there was any permanent damage caused I wouldn’t be able to clean up, I needed to document it. Prove that it wasn’t me—like I should have saved the texts from Jessica’s husband, Brad. Despite myself, my heart fluttered. Forget about him!


A cold draught whistled, as I turned on the flash and started taking pictures with my phone, writing my grievances into my notepad.


Dirty floor, I scribbled.


Wet umbrellas. I shivered at the thought of the strangers coming in the cabin.


Property left unlocked.


My breath hitched—a strong gust of wind slammed the door shut behind me and blew out the candle. Cursing under my breath, I shoved my notebook back into my pocket and, using my phone’s flashlight, rummaged through my backpack. I found some matches. Relit the candle. Electricity was something I would have to sort out in the morning, once the storm had passed. There was an old generator somewhere, most likely broken, but the agents had arranged to have a new one delivered for the next day. I only had to make do without it for one night. Then, everything would be fine. I threw the burnt out matchstick into the ashtray beside the two already there. The hairs stood on the back of my neck. I must tell the agents not to send people without telling me first.


I sat down by the table with the sandwich I packed, unwrapped it and took a bite, scrolling through my messages whilst I ate.


“David, we broke up. Call me when you can. Jessica said she is suing you, but I don’t think she’d go through with it. I told her you didn’t initiate anything. She threw all my stuff out the window and kicked me out the house. Said she was calling divorce lawyers. The worst is, she is calling my family, too.


“Can I stay at yours tonight?”


My finger tapped on the screen. “I’m currently at this address,” I started typing, then deleted it. “I might lose my licence over this” Delete again. “It would be nice…” NO! Backspace. “The spare keys to my flat are in the geranium pot—” I was tapping backspace again. 

Finally, I only wrote,“I’m sorry.”

Not like it mattered.

The text couldn’t be delivered without phone reception. It was probably for the best.


I scrunched up my sandwich wrapper and tossed it to the far end of the table, where it bumped into another two scrunched up paper balls next to my notebook. Why was there so much rubbish?! Fine, I would make a note about that too. I snapped a photo and grabbed the notebook. But where did I put my pen? Patting my pocket and I found it—and the notebook. I was not able to swallow the last bite inside my mouth. My heart drumming inside my chest, I pulled out the notebook.

It was mine.

They both were… 

Identical.


Drawing the air in too sharply, I coughed, choking on that last bite of my sandwich. I flicked through the pages. 

The same handwriting. 

The same words. 

The. Same. Creases! 


My fingers raked through my hair as I stared at them. Impossible. Was I going mad?


With my heartbeat drumming in my ears and my breaths quick and shallow, I grew aware of a noise other than my anxious panting. A noise that was coming from outside, but was not of the forest. Behind the veil of raindrops hitting the roof and the ground, a scratching sound, like small stones in the earth grinding on metal alternated with heavy thumps. 


Slurring a quick prayer for all the gods out there, I grabbed my phone and snuck out into the night. Behind the cabin, I could just make out the silhouette of a man, working, the ground lit by the weak light of his cellphone. 

My dad was a gardener.

I should have recognised the sound of digging with a shovel.


‘Excuse me?’ I took a step forward, but tripped over something heavy and somewhat soft, like an animal. I scraped my hands in the muddy gravel, and feeling for my phone on the ground, I grabbed it and shone its bluish light onto what tripped me up.


A dead man.


Wearing my face.


The sound of digging stopped, and the man with the shovel climbed out of the grave. My breath hitched as he limped towards me and I scrambled onto my feet.

He had my clothes. He had my body. He, too, wore my face.

Another me.


Screaming, I grabbed the first thing on hand, a big branch, and flung it towards the monster.


It wasn’t easy.


In the movies I’d seen, all it took was one blow. No pain. Digging this grave for two, I half expected the dead creatures to get back up and grab at my ankle. It took half my right foot with half my shoe, severing it by shoving that shovel into the ground through it. Still, I kept fighting. Still, I won.


It died slowly; in agony, looking at me with my own eyes, screaming in my voice. And it nearly took me to the grave with it like it took my foot. It wasn’t a free victory. But I was the one left standing. Alive.


I’ll leave this place, at the first light of day. Text Brad, I promised myself, no longer caring if I got sued or lost my licence. All I wanted was to get out of here and a warm embrace.


Trembling, I tightened the makeshift bandage around what was left of my foot, and, once I could breathe again, checked the time on my phone. The numbers changed as I watched - from 01:00 back to 00:04. Just past midnight again? I furrowed my brows. It had to be the blood loss, the pain and shock, playing tricks on my mind. I continued digging, half aware of the noise of a passing car. I forgot about it. Clenched my jaw. Dug.


Then, like I was on the wrong side of a memory, I saw my fate clear in the choking dark, as the footsteps approached and I heard my voice from another mouth.


‘Excuse me–’

July 06, 2022 23:34

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47 comments

Emma G.
17:38 Jul 21, 2022

Woah, at first I was confused when I started to reach the end of your story. I wasn't sure it would wrap up all the loose ends in a satisfying way. But when I read the last few lines I realized boyyy was I wrong. So eerie!! Amazing work building up to the twist

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Riel Rosehill
18:57 Jul 21, 2022

Wow, thanks so much for this lovely comment, Emma! I truly appreciate that you stopped by my story to read and leave your feedback 😊

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21:44 Jul 20, 2022

This is my favorite story of yours (so far). You dragged me into the depths with the first few lines and suffocated my senses. I’ve also never heard of the word “fusty” before. I figured it out. I like it.

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Riel Rosehill
21:58 Jul 20, 2022

Heyy, thanks for the high praise! Behind the scenes secret; I never heard "fusty" before either. I just didn't know the right descriptive word for what I wanted to say, and that's what I settled on after a quick search. :D

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Daniel R. Hayes
22:22 Jul 19, 2022

Hi Riel!!!! This story was simply amazing. The first two lines gripped my soul and wouldn't let go. It was a very great play on the prompt as well. You are a masterful writer and I loved this. You are quite the talent, my friend, and this deserves the win!! :)

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Riel Rosehill
19:10 Jul 21, 2022

Haha, only if I could put you on the Reedsy team of judges! 😂 Thanks you for reading and for the nice comment - it was a tough one for me with the time loop, but I enjoyed writing this one 😃

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Daniel R. Hayes
23:21 Jul 21, 2022

That's great! When you enjoy what you do, that's all that matters. I think I would scare all the judges away...

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Riel Rosehill
05:20 Jul 22, 2022

Haha I wouldn't worry about that! As long as there are content warnings...

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Daniel R. Hayes
06:02 Jul 22, 2022

This is very true... I'm having the t-shirt made as we speak :)

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Jazmine Abuzaid
18:27 Jul 14, 2022

I would have never thought to write a story like this for that prompt. I love how chilling and suspenseful this story is. great job.

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Riel Rosehill
18:31 Jul 14, 2022

Hey Jazmine, thank you for reading and leaving this kind comment - much appreciated! :D

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Kevin Broccoli
17:00 Jul 14, 2022

I would never have taken the prompt in that direction and it was so brilliant of you to see that potential within it. I'm going to bookmark this story and read it again in autumn, because it has the perfect crispy mood to it. Bravo.

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Riel Rosehill
18:21 Jul 14, 2022

Oh, thanks a lot, Kevin! I am a sucker for that crisp autumn mood :D

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Kelsey H
07:13 Jul 14, 2022

Though I love the build of tense atmosphere and the feeling of something being off which he experiences from arrival, one of my first thoughts was - couples therapist must be one of the worst jobs out there. Imagine spending your days listening to arguing couples! Anyway, I liked how you brought in those elements by having him get the messages, even though he was trying to escape from all that. I liked the sequence of this how at one point the work/relationship issues seem at the forefront and the odd stuff of other umbrella's etc in the c...

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Riel Rosehill
10:26 Jul 15, 2022

Thanks Kelsey! I don't know if it's the worst job - I only knew one psychologist who did couples therapy, and she said she preferred it and it was easier than individual therapy, because you don't go as deep into their personal troubles, more focus on the shared ones.. But I get your point, I wouldn't want to do it either! 😂 Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts, it always makes my day to read your comments! PS. Yeah, I think a glitch is a good word for it!

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Nicole Farmer
04:04 Jul 14, 2022

Ya M. Night Shyalaman'ed me! Much like the title, I had to go back and read again only to realize...I was in a loop... BRAVO!!!

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Riel Rosehill
06:26 Jul 15, 2022

Haha, best comment! Thanks, Nicole! 😁

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Aeris Walker
00:53 Jul 14, 2022

Ooo now I feel like I need to go watch happy YouTube videos of puppies and kittens before bed… Nailed it with the dark, unsettling atmosphere. Every detail contributed to a bad feeling growing in the pit of my stomach. I love how you personified so many features of the house like the hinges, the shadows, and the floorboards—that immediately established for me that this place was going to be dark and insidious. And that was also one of my favorite paragraphs: “Shadows lurked and yawned on every surface, cast by the dim, flickering light. The...

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Riel Rosehill
17:35 Jul 15, 2022

Haha, the old picture was like two years old so I thought I should update - thanks! I'm glad you found it scary enough, that's always the best comment to receive on a horror 🤩 And thanks for the comment on improving. Full disclosure, for the latest few stories I've been getting some feedback before posting stories from the other writers on here, so for sure that helped too! 😊

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Aeris Walker
20:41 Jul 15, 2022

That’s so great!! I do the same with my husband, he reads all my stories in their earlier stages and let’s me know what comes across as unclear, or too fast/slow, etc. Just having that one other perspective helps me zoom out and see what areas of my writing need work. And I think just the fact that you are open/receptive to critique will undoubtedly make you a better writer. I just saw your newest story, so I’m looking forward to getting around to that one 😉 Hope you have a fantastic weekend and good luck on this next set of prompts 🥴

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Riel Rosehill
12:42 Jul 18, 2022

Oh, you're so lucky with your husband! My boyfriend doesn't have the time or attention span to read my stories (he only read a copuple, scrolled through a few, and was less than enthusiastic for the most part x"D) I'm skipping this week with the new prompts as I'm writing for another contest this week, but best of luck to you! Also can't wait to read your newest story - I'll probably ge around to it today :)

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Aeris Walker
00:20 Jul 22, 2022

(Another belated response) All the best on your other writing project! It’s definitely hard to do multiple time/energy consuming endeavors at once.

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06:21 Jul 13, 2022

The imagery was great and kept me hooked the whole time, the time loop was a nice twist that had proper foreshadowing. Overall, great job.

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Riel Rosehill
06:25 Jul 15, 2022

Hey Jessica, thanks for taking your time to read and leave a comment, it's much appreciated! 😁

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Alex Sultan
08:20 Jul 10, 2022

Hey friend, I really liked this story. I thought the concept of the loop was great - reminded me of so many movies with similar ideas. I like how you built up the atmosphere and tension, and how creepy it all felt. I also like the text messages, esecpially when they're all being backspaced. Great use of first person, too 👍

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Riel Rosehill
06:24 Jul 15, 2022

Alex! I'm trying to think if I've seen a loop-movie now..! I can't remember - if you meant horror movies, that's probably why 😂 Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated! ❤️

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Katy Borobia
03:39 Jul 09, 2022

The premise of the time loop is incredible. I loved the section at the end especially. I would love to see the same story with the time loop emphasized much more and the therapist's personal life much more in the background.

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Riel Rosehill
12:19 Jul 09, 2022

Thanks Katy! I did it difficult to balance his personal issues with the plot - I appreciate your feedback on this, will keep it in mind if and when I do a rewrite! :)

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Katy Borobia
17:44 Jul 15, 2022

That ending section was really well done in my opinion. You have a talent for thriller and I'd be "thrilled" to read more of this genre from you ;) ;) ;)

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J.C. Lovero
00:39 Jul 09, 2022

Ri Ri~ I promised you a proper comment, so here we are! And you know this, but thriller/horror/suspense are some tags I AVOID in general, so I'll do my best to be helpful here 😆 😅 😂 First, you did a really nice job of drip-feeding us bits and pieces of the story without info-dumping it onto us. I found myself spending half the story trying to figure out what the heck was going on between David, the MC, and all of the other random people throughout. It was an effective way to build the tension, so kudos! I will not pretend to be an expert ...

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Riel Rosehill
12:15 Jul 09, 2022

I appreciate you still read this despite the genre. Xx My one and only goal was to make it scary, and I hoped no one would ask questions! Because, I have none of the answers. :D

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Suma Jayachandar
10:02 Jul 08, 2022

OMG, Riel, this is bloody good stuff!! You set up the chilling atmosphere so well and slowly unleash the horror on the reader. Brilliant!

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Riel Rosehill
11:54 Jul 09, 2022

Oh thank you so much, Suma! My one and only goal was to make it scary :D

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Michał Przywara
20:53 Jul 07, 2022

I smiled when I saw the tags, and the story delivered :) The opening sets the stage really well. Here we have a protagonist with some serious life troubles. Getting entangled with clients, getting sued, getting death threats… all of that alone is a great story, and retreating to a secluded cabin for a while makes perfect sense. And then weird stuff starts happening :) It's creepy enough when you think you're alone, but you see clues that you're not. We get this right from the first couple sentences, which were a good hook. I naturally ...

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Riel Rosehill
12:04 Jul 09, 2022

Cannibals?! What a wild first assumption! I don't know if I could stomach writing tha-- oh scrap this, you're right, I did feature consumption of humans in a previous story, so fair assumption. LOL Thanks for the comment - I'm glad Infinity Stays sounded ominius - I thought the first two panicked and one got killed - I think that's reasonable when somebody sneaks up on you in the dark and they look like you(?) As for the loops workings? Don't ask me, this is why I'm no sci-fi writer!

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A.G. Scott
19:01 Jul 07, 2022

Hi! Cool idea! 1) I was reminded of an Anne Frank quote I couldn't place, so I went to find it: "Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness." You definitely define the darkness in this piece, the spooky tone is consistent. 2) The title spoiled things for me a bit. My idea would be something like 'You Again', idk, not sure if that's better 3) I wanted the confrontation to happen earlier. I feel like the tension elevates fairly steadily, then plateaus. In some ways I think it's good that you lingered in the eeriness o...

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Riel Rosehill
12:10 Jul 09, 2022

Hi A.G., Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, I didn't really had the brainpower to think about a title this week, and you can definitely tell! I agree with the comment about the tension - this could be scarier. Will keep that in mind for a potential future rewrite. :)

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Aesha Amin
07:40 Jul 07, 2022

Like I said, it made me turn on the lights in my room so fast😭 I love the imagery! You write descriptions of settings in your stories so so well! The use of texts at the beginning of the story summarised the background part of the David’s situation really well. And the spooky parts were just so unique and new. Couldn’t have seen them coming. Riel, you’re amazing.

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Riel Rosehill
16:16 Jul 07, 2022

Aesha, you turning the lights on is my favourite comment! Thank you so much, also for your excellent suggestions :D

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Jay Mc Kenzie
07:22 Jul 07, 2022

Yay! Tight and laden with suspense.

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Riel Rosehill
16:18 Jul 07, 2022

Thanks you! And thanks for all the suggestions! :D

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Seán Mc Nicholl
06:49 Jul 07, 2022

Love it Riel!! The changes make it flow beautifully! Very spooky! Well done!

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Riel Rosehill
16:19 Jul 07, 2022

Thanks, I'm glad you liked the changes! Thanks for the suggestions :D

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Zack Powell
01:00 Jul 07, 2022

OMG, I haven't seen you post a story this early in the contest since "Prince of Misfortune," and I'm shook right now! Whatever happened to my fellow last-minute Lacey? 💔 Only kidding! Glad to see you get this out of the way so you can take the rest of the week off and relax. And it's been a while since we've seen you write a Horror piece, so this was like a breath of fresh air. (Side note: I have ten genres left to do on here, and Horror and Thriller are both among them, so this provided some much needed inspiration.) Double side note: I f...

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Riel Rosehill
16:05 Jul 07, 2022

Hi Zack! Not so last minute, right? To be honest I thought it was Thursday, I was in a hurry - this is another double contender for a Vocal contest, the first line was given, like with the dragon story (but this one, I absolutely hated!), the deadline for that is a bit sooner than Reedsy's - and we know I can't write two stories at once! I'm way too slow. Anyways, I've been off sick the whole week, so had some time to scribble. I knew you would get Infinity Says :D And yeah, of course tim loops like this cannot make sense, but I didn't tr...

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Zack Powell
02:45 Jul 09, 2022

Oh, double contender makes sense! Good luck with both contests! I think you've got a great piece on your hands. I don't think the time loop thing is a huge concern or anything. We have to accept that it's Fiction, and in Fiction anything can happen. I doubt anyone will knock you for that (or at least, I hope not). Feel you on being too tired for an edit, LOL. Been there, done that. You're preaching to the choir. Just to give you a heads-up for tomorrow so you don't think anything happened to me: I THOUGHT I could last-minute Lacey my way ...

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Riel Rosehill
05:22 Jul 09, 2022

Ooh I wanted to do Globe soup too, but prioritised Vocal (bigger payout, right?!) and then I was feeling too ill to write another piece! I have read a few of what other Reedsy writers wrote for it though which was fun. Would love to see your take on that prompt, too! And, thanks for the heads up! I definitely would have worried for you otherwise! Two stories for next week? One might not be last minute?! Ooh. I am also planning to post something early - by the 14th, because that's the start of Writer's Games, seemed like a fun contest to sig...

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