Contest #234 shortlist ⭐️


Speculative Fiction People of Color

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.


            The girl opened her eyes, the sound of a train whistle lingering in her ears.  


            The oncoming train blared at him, a bellowing trumpet like an angry elephant.  He could see the conductor behind the glass, lit up from the instrument panels.  There was a panicked expression on his face, and for that, Sarat was sorry.  He tried to smile reassuringly but doubted it would bring any comfort when his insides were being washed off the front of the train.    

            Just a few seconds now.    

            The light was too bright to keep his eyes open, though he wanted to see the end when it came.    

            A cold wind blew across his brow and he shivered.    

            Should have brought a jacket, he thought, but the thought ended with the train.  


            He walked the tracks in the dark, in no discernable direction, just back and forth, crossing over to another, and then another and another, thinking about the girl and wondering when it would happen.    

            Just as Sarat hopped onto a new track, he heard the ringing of the bells.  He paused and looked up at the flashing lights on the sign, and before he could react the railroad track beneath him switched over and pinned his foot between the two rails.    

            There was some pain, but not much.  It wasn’t crushed, just trapped.  

            As the lights of the train came into view, Sarat didn’t bother to fight the inevitable.  He was relieved.  He always was.  


            The machines bleeped and ticked, breathing life through a tube.  He watched her chest rise and fall.  She looked young, maybe early twenties.  Too young for this to happen to her.  He wondered why there was no family here with her.  Did she have any?  Were they estranged?  Dead?  

            Sarat reached out and put his hand on top of hers.   

            “I’m sorry,” he whispered to her.  “But I’ll make it right.”  

            A polite cough behind him.  

            He turned to see a nurse standing in the doorway.  

            “I’m sorry, Sir, but visiting hours are over for the night.”  

            “It’s ok,” he replied quietly.  “I was just leaving.”  

            The nurse slipped to the side and smiled at him as he walked through the door, but he paused as he remembered something.  

            “Excuse me, Miss, but I heard a train whistle right before I came inside.  Is there a depot somewhere nearby?”  

            She nodded past his shoulder.  

            “There is.  One block behind our parking garage.”  

            “Thank you,” he said, and walked away.    


            “I wish you would stop coming here, Sarat.”  

            “You’re the only friend I have.”  

            “We aren’t friends,” she made a point of saying.  “In fact, I’d say we’re bordering on dislike.”  

            “I don’t dislike you,” he protested.  

            “I was talking about me.”  

            He nodded and looked down at his hands.  

            “I understand.”  

            Monica sighed, tapping her pencil against the clipboard.    

            “Did you go to see her yet?” she asked.  

            “I was on my way when I stopped here.”  

            “Have to get the confession in first, huh?”  

            He winced at the retort.  

            Monica frowned and shook her head.  She reached up with a hand and brushed away an errant strand of hair.               

            “I’m sorry.  That was uncalled for.”  

            “It’s nothing more than I deserve.”  

            “Maybe…maybe not,” she said, leaning forward in the plush chair across from the couch he sat on.  “But I do know you can’t keep doing this to yourself.”  

            “I can’t stop,” he whispered, and it was true.  “It won’t let me.”  

            “Ah, yes,” she responded.  “The curse.”  

            Coming from her lips it sounded so juvenile, but it didn’t make it any less true.  

            “Have you thought about leaving the city?”  

            He cocked his head to the side and glanced up at her.   

            “Where would I go?”  

            “Where haven’t you been?” she returned.  

            Sarat thought about it for a few seconds.  

            “I’ve been everywhere.”  

            “Of course you have,” Monica said, waving dismissively.  “Okay, where have you been the least?” 

            “The north pole,” he was quick to reply.    

            He had always disliked the cold.  

            She chuckled, and for a brief moment, a caustic smile shone through.  

            “Perhaps it’s time you made another visit.  After all, there’s not a lot of people out there.  If something were to happen, you would probably never be found.”  

            Sarat nodded.  It was true what she said.  Not about never being found.  He would always be found.  That was part of it, after all, but maybe he wouldn’t be found for a long time.  He could be at peace, if only for a little while.    

            “I think you’re right,” he said, and this time it was he that smiled.    

            He stood and nodded to her.  

            “I appreciate all the help you’ve given me.” 

            Monica stood too.  

            “I told you before, Sarat.  I’m not your therapist.  I never wanted to be your therapist, and I hope you don’t take this too personally, but I don’t ever want to see you again.”  

            “You won’t,” he promised her, and left.   


            “What’ll it be, Buddy?”  

            “Scotch,” Sarat replied.  

            “Anything particular?”  

            “No, just fill the glass.”  

            The bartender raised an eyebrow but he filled the glass.  

            “Rough day?” he asked.  

            Sarat pulled the scotch close to him and inhaled the fumes from the liquor.  He didn’t drink it though.  He knew there was no point in it.  

            “You could say that,” he replied.    

            The nametag identified the bartender as Paul.    

            “Is it a woman?”  

            Sarat glanced up sharply, then relaxed when he realized the man was just being polite.  

            “Yes,” he said, nodding.    

            “She hurt you or you hurt her?” Paul asked.  

            “I hurt her.”  

            “Is it too late to make up for it?”  

            Sarat frowned.  

            “I always make up for it.”  

            He stood and left two, hundred dollar bills on the counter.    

            “Do you have a payphone?”  


            Sarat had been wandering the city for most of the day with no real destination in mind.  He kept thinking about the young woman from that morning.  Something about her, about this day, seemed different. He just couldn't put his finger on it.

            There was someone he could talk to, but he wasn't sure how receptive she would be.  

            Looking up, Sarat realized that he had stopped in front of a pub.  


            He watched as the paramedics loaded the gurney into the ambulance and closed the doors.  One of them, a short but stocky woman, noticed him on the sidewalk.  It wasn’t hard.  He had a lot of blood on his shirt.  

            “Sir?” she asked, approaching him.  “Do you need medical attention?”  

            Sarat ignored the question.  

            “Where are you taking her?” he asked.  

            “Are you a relative, Sir?  Did you call this in?”  

            He looked hard at her.  She seemed to flinch.    

            “Where are you taking her?” he spoke slowly, deeply. 

            The paramedic’s eyes seemed to glass over, the same way the police officer’s did when he had approached with questions.  

            “Bellevue,” she mumbled.    

            “Thank you,” Sarat said, then walked away in the opposite direction before any more people noticed him.  


            “Oh my god are you okay?”  

            He was lying on his back and she was kneeling down by his side, her hand on his chest.  

            “Don’t,” he whispered breathlessly.  “Don’t…touch…me…”  

            But she didn’t hear him, and it was already too late. 

            His eyelids fluttered as he felt it leave her and start to flow through him, suffusing his body with life and energy, strengthening his limbs and healing his body.  He heard bones crunching as they set themselves, his cuts closing, the skin growing over the wounds.     

            Within seconds he could feel the sun on his face and the concrete beneath his body.    

            “Please don’t move,” the girl desperately said.  “The ambulance will be here soon.” 

            Sarat smiled sadly up at her.  

            “I’m fine,” he said with conviction, and he was.    

            Pushing her hand aside, he sat up then stood, the girl backing away in disbelief.  

            “B-b-but that car,” she stuttered, eyes wide and mouth agape.  “I-I s-saw it hit you.”  

            He looked down the street.  There were skid marks from where the car had slammed on the brakes, but there was no car.  

            “I take it whoever it was already left,” Sarat said, staring at the streaks of blood across the pavement.    

            “I got part of their license plate,” the girl said softly.    

            He looked back to her and noticed that her face had gone white.  It could have been shock but he knew better.  There wasn’t much time.    

            “H-how?” she asked.  

            “A daayan,” Sarat replied, but he was mostly speaking to himself.  “In revenge for my spurning her.”  

            The girl shook her head, whether in confusion or incredulity of his recovery, he knew not.  She shuffled back a few more steps, tripping over the curb and falling hard onto her butt, though she didn’t seem to notice.    

            Sarat walked over to her and squatted down to her eye level.  

            “It’s going to be okay,” he said in his most soothing voice.  “You’re going to get tired soon, and then you’ll fall asleep.  When you wake up, you’ll be scared but everything will be fine.” 

            He could see that her eyelids were already starting to grow heavy.  She struggled against the fatigue, trying to blink away the spell that had already enfolded her.  

            “A daayan?” she queried faintly.  

            “A witch,” Sarat replied, his mind drifting back to the memory, so long ago, long before he knew the world.  

            How many years?  How many centuries?  

            “Wish?” she slurred, her head starting to sag.  

            “Yes,” he said.  “To live on borrowed time is what she said to me.  I thought that meant something different when I was young, but I know now that she meant it literally.”  

            The girl was starting to sag.    

            Sarat caught her before she could fall backwards and eased her to the ground.  Surprisingly, her eyes were still open, though barely.    

            “Time,” she whispered.  

            He nodded.  

            “I’m just borrowing a little time.  You’ll get it back, and when you do, you’ll feel different for the rest of your life, but it’ll be a good feeling.”  

            The girl closed her eyes and Sarat sat next to her, waiting for the ambulance.  


            It wasn’t like him to sleep in.  In fact, he couldn’t recall the last time he had awoken after dawn.  He briefly wondered if this meant that something would change, but then cynically dismissed it.  It was hope like that which had almost driven him mad back in Constantinople.  

            Inevitably, his thoughts turned to the young man from the other day, the one who had pulled him out of the fire.  Sarat had checked in on him at Mount Sinai the other night.  The man had been surrounded by his family, a woman that had to be his wife crying by his bedside.    

            “You will be awake soon,” Sarat muttered to himself.   

            Footsteps snapped him out of his reverie.  He glanced up to see a young woman jogging towards him.  He could have gone right and stood in the doorway of the building to let her by, but instead he stepped to the left, off the curb and into the street.  

            He heard the screech of tires behind him and turned to look, wanting to see the end when it came.  

January 19, 2024 17:41

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Story Time
06:00 Feb 06, 2024

I think it's a fitting tribute to "Memento." I'm a big fan of the film as well.


HC Edwards
03:16 Feb 07, 2024

I am still waiting for another one like it… Not sure it will happen… In a couple of days my new story Paradox will hit… I hope you get the chance to check it out


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Philip Ebuluofor
19:57 Feb 04, 2024

Five work. Congrats


HC Edwards
03:19 Feb 07, 2024

Thank you! If you get a chance, check out my other stories… I always try to give the reader a reveal… A prestige if you will


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Mary Bendickson
17:52 Feb 02, 2024

Congrats on the shortlist. A compelling story. Had me going in reverse.


HC Edwards
22:12 Feb 02, 2024

Thank you! Btw, what’s the shortlist?


Mary Bendickson
22:35 Feb 02, 2024

You have been here on Reedsy since 2021 and don't know what shortlist is? The judges award the winner of the contest $250. They also select runners-ups. Sometimes as many as ten, other times only two, that they name to a 'shortlist' that were in the running for the prize. They are granted a gift certificate for services on Reedsy but you can only receive one certificate even if named shortlisted more than once. With so many entries each week by highly talented writers it is an honor to make the shortlist if you were not named winner. This m...


HC Edwards
03:45 Feb 03, 2024

Thank you for the info. Truth to tell I’ve never really done anything on this site but read other peoples stories and put up stories of my own. I’m not even sure if I’ve ever read any of the emails I’ve been sent. But I will now.


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Scott Winkler
02:32 Feb 01, 2024

reedsy sent me your story suggesting i read and comment. so i read it, and now i better read it again or twice more. probably my confusion and limited understanding means it demonstrates a super elevated consciousness on your part and you will win the whole contest. thank you.


HC Edwards
02:57 Feb 01, 2024

lol this cracked me up…but I know it’s confusing. I wrote this as an homage to Memento, a movie I had to watch a few times to get…read each entry from end to beginning…it makes a bit more sense that way


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Crystal Farmer
16:27 Jan 31, 2024

Beautiful structure!


HC Edwards
03:17 Feb 07, 2024

Thank you! I am always trying to give you the unexpected


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Alexis Araneta
15:42 Jan 31, 2024

Oooh, I love the countback aspect of it !


HC Edwards
21:18 Jan 31, 2024

Thank you! Memento is one of my fave movies of all time and I wanted to write something that gave the reveal going backwards in time


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Wendy M
14:59 Jan 27, 2024

Brilliant story, I was engaged the whole way through, well done.


HC Edwards
21:55 Jan 27, 2024

Thank you! I have a few more on my page and am going to upload a lot more. Please check them out if you have the time.


Wendy M
23:17 Jan 27, 2024

Will do, perhaps you could reciprocate? Always glad of comments.


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Kate Winchester
14:02 Jan 27, 2024

Loved this! I’m not always a fan of reverse timelines but you nailed it. You had me intrigued the whole time. Your take on the prompt was super creative. It must be tough living with a curse like that. I’m glad the victims are okay though. Great job!


HC Edwards
21:57 Jan 27, 2024

Thank you. I always try to give you the unexpected. If you get the chance please check out my other stories. I have a few and am dropping more.


Kate Winchester
23:12 Jan 27, 2024

Welcome 🤗 I will check them out! Could you read one of mine?


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