Contest #181 shortlist ⭐️

55 comments

Adventure Suspense Romance

You were born on National Maple Syrup Day. Your mother names you Alcyone (pronounced AL-SEE-OWN-EE) because Alcyone means calm. It’s a cruel, unfitting choice given your family’s history of anxiety. You wish your name were something simple and easy-to-say, like Hannah.


By the time you turn nineteen, you've grown tired of constantly having to correct people. It’s Al-see-own-ee, you tell them on the days you have more confidence than usual, but they don’t hear you, and if they do hear you, they forget. As far as they’re concerned, you are Alison. Sometimes Alimony. As time goes on, you accept your fate as this Alison-slash-Alimony person and reason to yourself that your anxiety makes it difficult to correct people anyway. Plus, correcting others is rude, as your mother always told you, even though she had no issue correcting you herself—your wilted-flower posture, your questionable taste in clothing. 


It's not until your philosophy professor mispronounces your name on your twentieth birthday in front of 235 other students that you think about what this all means. Perhaps you are not important enough—not worthy of someone taking the time out of their day to string four little syllables together. Instead, they butcher your birth-given vowels like rotten cuts of meat, and you sit there, nodding along as if this is who you are.  



If you decide to start going by Hannah, go to A


If you decide to keep going by Alcyone, go to B


________________________


A

It takes some time to get used to the name Hannah. Like a new, stiff shoe, you work hard to break in the vowels—strange and foreign to your ears and tongue—until your new name becomes second nature. Now when people call you Hannah, you turn around. The name flows easily from their tongue, and it’s as easy for them as saying the word apple or tomorrow.


You tell yourself it was for the best—changing your name and all. Your name was too sacred for you to let other people butcher. Every time they twisted it, choking on the vowels like hard pieces of candy, it sounded like worms and toads coming from their mouths. You were only trying to save them.


Besides, while you may be anxious, you’re also practical. No matter how hard you tried to get people to say Alcyone, you’d never succeed. This way, everyone is happy, and no one can change your name ever again. You chose to be Hannah. You’ve always wanted to be Hannah, and now you are. This is completely your own doing. 


The next time you’re in philosophy, you’re learning about Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. Your professor takes an entire semester to explain it, even though it can be distilled to a few simple facts in a matter of seconds. 

1.     No matter what you choose, you will regret it. 

2.     We’re trapped in a bind of what Kierkegaard calls double regret.


That same year, you meet Sam, and you soon become Sam and Hannah. He says he’s always loved the name Hannah, and you wonder what would’ve happened had you still gone by Alcyone. Something about being Hannah makes you more confident and alluring. It’s like wearing a stranger’s skin—a stranger who happens to be more beautiful, more vocal than Alcyone ever could be.


Six months in, you decide it’s time to tell him the truth. That your name is Alcyone. You reveal the secret name to him slowly and carefully like a big, ugly scar or an incurable STI. 


To your disgust, he laughs and says he understands why you changed your name. He understands, a word that normally brings you comfort. He likes Hannah way more, he adds. 


If you’re being honest with yourself, you’re not completely crazy about him. You never were. In those moments of doubt you convince yourself that feelings grow—like plants—and that eventually you will feel something. There is something there, after all. It’s not like there is absolutely nothing. But still, by the time he proposes to you in the middle of a busy food court four years later, that stale, dry feeling is still there. 


You look at him, kneeling in front of a Hot Dog on a Stick, and think. Everyone is watching you. That anxiety, that doubt creeps back up on you, wrenching your stomach like a dirty wet mop.


If you decide to say yes, go to C.

If you to say no, go to D. 


________________________


B


You’ve resigned to going by whatever people wish to call you. Alison. Alimony. It makes the few people who actually do take the time to correctly call you Alcyone even more special to you. It weeds out the phonetically careless and narrows it down to the small circle of people who take the time to call you what you are, even when you insist it is not worth their effort. 


The next time you’re in philosophy, you’re learning about Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. Your professor takes an entire semester to explain it, even though it can be distilled to a few simple facts in a matter of seconds. 

1.     No matter what you choose, you will regret it. 

2.     We’re trapped in a bind of what Kierkegaard calls double regret.


One day that year, you meet Cody. He is part of your study group and asks you if your name is really Alimony. You say no and teach him your name. It normally takes about a semester to teach people how to say it, but for him, it takes seconds. In class and everywhere else, he is louder than you and talks more. When people say your name wrong, he tells them, self-assured, “It’s Al-see-own-ee.” 


Two years later, he proposes to you when you're alone, sitting on your couch, because he knows you hate it when too many people look at you at once, but more than anything, he knows your name is Al-see-own-ee.


If you decide to say yes, go to G. 

If you decide to say no, go to D. 


________________________


C

As the years go by, you wonder if this was the right decision. You tell yourself it that it was, yet you feel nothing for this person. In those moments you try to remind yourself of Kierkegaard. Had you married him, you’d regret it. Had you not married him, you’d regret it. You reason you made the right decision by marrying because now you are not alone and you will have babies and everyone, especially you, as you keep telling yourself, will be happy. 


But not even marriage is permanent, and as you hear him from across your home, making loud, vile bathroom noises with every orifice in his body, you question if he is worth it.


If you decide to divorce him, go to D.

If you decide to stay with him, go to H.


________________________


D

For whatever unknown reason, you miss him—even ten, twenty years later. The more time that goes by, the easier it is to forget why you left. 


You had your reasons at the time, but you've forgotten them. Now you are alone, but at least there are now fewer people in your life to call you the wrong name. You've always done well alone, anyway, but as the years go by, it becomes more difficult.


If you decide to meet new people, go to E.

If you decide to focus on yourself, go to F.

________________________

E

When you meet Ben, you're surprised how well he takes the news that your name is not actually Hannah. He thinks it's "cool" and only calls you it when he has something important to say.


"Alcyone," he says to you one day. "I can't be with you anymore."


Go to F.

________________________

F

In your newfound free time, you spend most of your days shopping. Eventually, you shop your life away, but this is what makes you happy--sorting through racks mindlessly, careful not to make the hangers screech.


Once you turn eighty-two, your body isn't what it used to be, but that questionable taste in clothing your mother always criticized you for is still alive and well.


One evening you find a dress, a form-fitting V-neck that compensates for its upper-half sluttiness by covering ninety percent of your legs. The dress comes in both violet and red.


If you choose the violet dress, go to I.

If you choose the red dress, to go J.

_______________________

G

Something isn't right. There are unusual charges on your joint credit card, and Cody has, for the first time in the thirty-six years you've been together, invested in new clothes and a nose hair trimmer.


You know what is happening and are grateful you named the daughter you had together Rose--because sometimes, when you have a difficult name and not a simple one, you're too easily impressed when someone does as little as saying it right.


You decide to leave him. You'd rather be called the wrong name a million times over.


Go to D.

_______________________

H

One day the bathroom noises stop. You wonder if you're a bad person for feeling grateful he has passed before you.


Go to F.

_______________________

I

You pass away on Christopher Columbus Day. You'd confided in the nurse at your bedside your regrets and had told her you have many. You have an open casket service, and your family has dressed your corpse in your favorite violet dress.

_______________________

J

You pass away on Christopher Columbus Day. You'd confided in the nurse at your bedside your regrets and had told her you have many. You have an open casket service, and your family has dressed your corpse in your favorite red dress.






January 21, 2023 04:22

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55 comments

Michał Przywara
21:41 Jan 24, 2023

That's wild! I haven't read a CYOA in a *long* time, and I didn't think it'd be possible to fit it in under 3k. But here we are :) Love that ending too. Not only does it tie back to Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, but the way it reduces the course of a life to an almost meaningless distinction is wonderfully nihilistic. Likewise, regardless of the choices we make, we find ourselves in our eighties, making fashion decisions and still haunted by our mother's criticism. It's a constant. So what does that mean? Are our choices an illusion, fundamen...

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Liv Chocolate
01:49 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you, Michael! I honestly haven't read one in a minute either. I couldn't find any for adults. Just children, so I had to refresh myself on them before writing this with an RL Stine novel. Luckily it was like a five-minute read (mainly bc I kept getting my character killed at this haunted carnival with my bad-decision making) It's almost comforting to know that, no matter how hard we try, we will always wonder "what if" I chose the other route and come out of it all with regrets.

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Valerie Shand
01:47 Jan 28, 2023

I admire your ingenuity and experimentation with this CYOA-style story. You've clearly chosen your words carefully, and this shows skill and finesse.

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Liv Chocolate
04:08 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you, Valerie!

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23:35 Jan 27, 2023

I absolutely love this. I'm not a writer but love short stories. Good luck in your endeavors. You have a wonderful gift

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Liv Chocolate
01:45 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you, Annemarie! Your encouragement means a lot

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S N
23:40 Jan 26, 2023

When you publish your first book (assuminy you have not already), please go to any of my stories, I do not care which one, and tell me the name so that I can buy it immediately. I love the way you write. I think this is the 2nd time I've read something of yours and I literally get chills while reading. 1st and foremost I am someone who has given my daughter, a difficult to pronounce name, as my mother also grew up with a difficult to pronounce name - there was so much in this, based on what my mom has told me of her experience and personally...

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Liv Chocolate
21:47 Jan 27, 2023

oh my gosh Sasha :' D your comment absolutely made my day! Writing a book is definitely a dream of mine. If it ever comes true, I'll definitely drop a comment. I've found that you never know how someone will react when you correct them. Some are appalled and others don't mind and are apologetic. I think being female too makes it harder to be assertive about name pronunciation--or else you come off as a beyatch. My name is Alicia which understandably gets pronounced as Alisha. I've since changed it to Allie and I actually prefer it. It's ma...

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S N
22:27 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you for this hollow at message, I wonder if my daughter will do the same. I've decided right now that if she does I will not hold it against her lol. But I mean it. I guess these are things we don't always think about, I once heard someone say that names are something to be grown into. I guess we just really don't know what we don't know. A hard thing it is, choosing a name for someone who has not yet shown themselves wholly too you, nor has had the time to.

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Liv Chocolate
07:37 Feb 07, 2023

I'm telling you. This is a golden story line: "A hard thing it is, choosing a name for someone who has not yet shown themselves wholly too you, nor has had the time to."

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S N
16:35 Feb 11, 2023

Haha thanks!

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Laurel Hanson
19:02 Jan 24, 2023

Kudos for pulling that off! Great idea! Tying Kierkegaard into it wove the idea of our choices being essentially meaningless throughout it. Or are they? On top of the complexity of this, your character is so nicely crafted!

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Liv Chocolate
01:49 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you, Laurel! It's a little biographical so this was a fun one.

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Daniel Allen
17:17 Jan 23, 2023

Love this idea. There's a whole lot of good stuff in it, but I think the best thing of all is how whatever path you take, you end up in pretty much the same place. I will admit I find that a little bit depressing. But, that being said, it's also a bit freeing, too, a reminder not to sweat the small stuff. Great work, and good luck in the contest!

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Liv Chocolate
01:50 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you, Daniel! It's comforting to know that every choice in life carries some regret in it. At least that's my personal philosophy. I've met people who disagree with this. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff is an amazing book btw. Most things really are small in life.

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Lily Finch
23:51 Jan 22, 2023

Liv, nice way to manage moving parts of a story! I absolutely love this style of writing. Beautifully and creatively done. Wow! LF6 One fixer for you. thirty-six year - just add s

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Liv Chocolate
02:17 Jan 23, 2023

Thank you so much, Lily! And for your eagle eye on that typo! <3

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Zack Powell
20:41 Jan 22, 2023

Oh my God...I have seen a lot of experimentation on Reedsy. I have done a lot of experimentation on Reedsy. None of any of that even comes close to this. None. I am so, so, so insanely jealous right now. This kind of choose-your-own-adventure, litRPG story is something I've been wanting to try out for a while, but I could never figure out how to get it right. And here you come, solving the mystery and doing it flawlessly. My choice of dress color is neither violet nor red - it's green, to symbolize my envy. Seriously though, I loved this so...

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Liv Chocolate
02:16 Jan 23, 2023

Thank you for making my night, Zack! 😄 And for such an awesome analysis To be honest, I was concerned the CYOA style would come off as gimmicky. I read an R.L. Stine Choose Your Own Adventure before writing this to get a feel for the format (I was a kid visiting a haunted carnival or something and kept dying). It was really hard keeping the paths straight. It took an embarrassing amount of tries to make it all circular. And I also relate to that last clause. It's so easy to view basic decency as a grand gesture after having a negative re...

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Zack Powell
18:35 Jan 27, 2023

This piece got recognized, and all is right in the universe. I could not be happier for you, Liv. Congrats on a well-earned accolade!

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13:37 Jan 22, 2023

Very creative. Experimental. A modern day take on choose ur adventure. After reading A Visit from the Goon Squad I think we all need to try something experimental and different. Btw in F a typo “questionable tase”.

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Liv Chocolate
02:18 Jan 23, 2023

Thank you so much, Scott! The Goon Squad is a classic! And thank you for that catch 🙏 definitely not trying to tase anyone though maybe that'll add to the adventure

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Henry Azure
15:12 Jan 21, 2023

This was so much fun to read. I was honestly planning on skimming the introduction and then making us coffee to truly appreciate it but I got sucked in instantly. I read every single possible outcome and couldn’t stop laughing when Prince Charming chose hot dog on a stick as a proposal venue. I love it, In 4 hours or so when you wake up I’ll tell you so and you’ll question me, but honestly I love it. I get the secret joy of seeing the full creative process from you glaring at me on the couch for talking too much to a work of art the follo...

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Liv Chocolate
05:00 Jan 23, 2023

I love you, and you make the best coffee I've ever had. Can you save the shavings so I can add them to my shrine?

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Henry Azure
03:56 Jan 24, 2023

I love you, I just restocked the coffee for Queen Ding Fu Ma. You have a shrine too?! Maybe we can combine them one day to protect us from evil nuns?

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Tommy Goround
07:33 Jan 21, 2023

So... This is sexy gorgeous. You made me a woman and it was fine until the noises. I tried to stay alone but my dress was all that was left in their memories. CYOA in 3k... totally worked. Hope more try this. Funnier... You have 5 spaces each week (for 25$)... Use the other slots to make a CYOA in 15k words

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Liv Chocolate
02:21 Jan 23, 2023

Thank you immensely, Tommy. Those noises drive me up the wall Being a woman can be fun sometimes

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Kelsey H
06:34 Jan 21, 2023

This is such a good idea, and very well executed. I used to love those Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child so it was nice to get an adult one! Great intro to the story with the name, and her anxiety around it. Of all the option sections I think my favourite was E, for how it summarised a relationship in such a succinct way. I like how there was such a similarity between either path she took, and the two ending options are effectively the same. Because of course no matter what different images she might try and present, she is sti...

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Tommy Goround
07:35 Jan 21, 2023

Oh. I was enjoying the story and forgot about kiekerguard. Nice tip.

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Liv Chocolate
02:24 Jan 23, 2023

Thank you so much, Kelsey! It's a sort of nihilistic CYOA, and you're right--no matter what she does, she ends up in basically the same place--with a different color dress but regrets nonetheless One of my favorite Kierkegaard quotes: “Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, yo...

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Wendy Kaminski
05:16 Jan 21, 2023

Brilliant, Liv! I haven't done a choose-your-own-adventure since low double-digits, and this was so much fun! I particularly loved how the ending was the same, either way. Also, the name ... halcyon play-off? :) Loved it! ~Violet :)

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Liv Chocolate
06:10 Jan 21, 2023

Thank you very much, Wendy! I'm team Violet too!

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Ken Cartisano
23:01 Jul 01, 2023

Liv, This story is very funny. And, in a way, profound. Some Great Lines: ‘The phonetically careless.’ ‘You say no and teach him your name.’ I loved this story, not for its multiple choice gameplay composition. But…. Because, well, first of all it’s funny, second of all, it proves what I’ve always suspected, Philosophy 101 was a complete waste of time. (Not for me, for everyone else.) And finally, I’ve found someone who can sympathize with what I’ve gone through. Imagine being 6 years old and your 54 year old teacher doesn’t know how to ...

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Amanda Lieser
16:45 Feb 17, 2023

Hey Liv! Wow! This was a stunning and well deserved shortlist. I did a full legal name change when I married-changing first, middle, and last, so I was instantly intrigued by the premise. I devoured this story multiple times so I could, “play the game again”. I really enjoyed the way this story finds its ending and I found myself satisfied with the way you portrayed the realities of life. I also really loved the way you tackled the romance then in this one. Nice job!

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Sophia Gavasheli
01:34 Feb 04, 2023

Oof. It's a sad reality that this story presents: life is full of choices, whether they are important like saying yes/no to a proposal or choosing a dress. One choice opens up infinitely more choices that wouldn't have been possible if you'd picked the other choice. but no matter what we choose, we will always regret not doing the other. Are we always doomed to regret our choices? How do we pick the right option without the wisdom of hindsight? Like the narrator, I often find myself considering alternate scenarios and wondering what would h...

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Mars S.
11:02 Feb 03, 2023

I definitely have a soft spot for stories in which the reader makes the choices, its exciting for me! This one is very well done and i enjoyed reading it and figuring out a new path each time i read it anew. Every one of your paths leads to the same end, with the only choice being a dress, which very nicely shows the theme. That was also very nicely shown through the discussion of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. It might have been nice to have the name mentioned in the end again, but other than that this story is lovely

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Stevie Burges
09:21 Jan 31, 2023

clever, clever story. Loved how you brought it to a conclusion. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Philip Ebuluofor
16:18 Jan 29, 2023

Congrats first of all. Tell me what is CYOA style? Your work is what is 70-30 enticing to me. But my first encounter.

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Rama Shaar
09:25 Jan 29, 2023

This is absolutely fantastic! What a unique concept and what masterful executed! I know it's meant as a sad story about the absurdity of life, but it really gives me a lot of comfort knowing that nothing really matters, so just go with the flow and don't worry too much because we're all going to die sooner than we think anyway. Fabulous!

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