The Art of the Contrivances

Submitted into Contest #38 in response to: Write a story about someone learning how to play an instrument. ... view prompt




It had started as a mere statement, I would have never thought it’d go this far. At first I’d just wanted something to prove my worth to the others. I could tell by the way they treated me that all I was to them was in the way. That’s why I had to show them that I was not just some stupid kid they were forced to cradle, to waste their time around.

  I was capable of anything! I just had to want it bad enough right?

They would finally notice me for my real self, and then-


“Look here!” I would say. 

And everything that followed those two words that would start it all, start the life I knew that I (and even they for that matter) deserved. All the things I did would stun them so much they would go into shock. I would show them my true potential, and it would terrify them. They would all shriek like the screeching owls of the night and fly away to another place, far far from here.

Far away from me.

I would be left satisfied.

And they, of course, would forget small little me ever existed. The only thing reminiscent of the last day I ever would be near to them reduced to a faint ringing sound echoing in their cumbersome ears, then nothing.

Or maybe they would flee remembering the all-to-horrifying day they realized just what they had been so near to for much too long.

They would recall their fear.

The horror that was me. The memories of what had happened that day, what I had done burning and permanent in their heads like the many scars and marks upon their horrid bodies.

On this day I would show them just what I could do.



We all started with the knowledge of the mellifluous. Everything about the musical ways was crucial to all society. There was no other way we or our elders could ensure our protection and utmost safety.

There were countless contrivances we were told to choose from at a very young age, every one of us wielded our own. The contrivances were said to call to the person they belonged in way of music. Melodies that stuck in your head ever since you could think at all suddenly right before your eyes. 

Mine contrivance was a small, silver pole-like thing that I played by pushing little plates against the many holes in its side. It was a simple and convenient contrivance which is why I liked it. I couldn't understand how some of the others could stand to lug around the larger of the contrivances. 

They do it for power I suppose. Their larger contrivances can hold more of it. Being bigger, the contraptions may have been imbued with lots more special abilities and defense mechanisms than mine.

There are countless possibilities as to what abilities your contrivance might hold, choosing the right one is detrimental. Sometimes the powers the contrivance displays are not to your tastes, and one is left feeling disappointed. But once it’s chosen, getting rid of it would be treason.

You keep what you pick…


At least until you die I suppose.

My contrivance in question is named piccolo. It creates an invisible barrier around me when I play, I've never really had to use it for anything serious though. There's not much I can do for our elders with such a low-power contrivance.

It’s nice to feel protected though.

But I have never seen anything like this.

This… contrivance? If that is what it is.

It makes sounds… but I see no place to place a mouth. Nothing turns or moves on it except four wooden pegs protruding from the top that only seem to change the tension of its gears.

The contraption confuses me as I pick it up to play it.

I struggle only to find that I don't know how and stiffen. A bolt of electricity races up my spine.

Was I losing it? All of us know how to play every single contrivance since birth, no matter it’s difficulty level.

Except The Faulty of course…

I gasp and drop the thing in my hand. Was I Faulty?

But no. My head shakes away the thought. I've played so many contrivances in my life effortlessly. I wasn't Faulty.

The only explanation was that this weird sound-making object is not a contrivance.

It couldn't be! It was probably just a tool the Faulty used for something… I mean, it was in the Faulty kid’s quarters after all…

I realize with a start that I was sent down here for a reason, and turn to leave, the boy was not here.

Just as I was leaving the door swung open and the shocked face of a boy - most likely the faulty who lived here - greeted mine.

“You are needed in the courtyard immediately,” I say, noticing the way his eyes convey so much emotion, that I can't even decipher what feeling came to him at my words.

The boy nods and looks away from me, then proceeds to exit the room.

I often wonder why we keep him. Other Faulty are shunned at birth, when it is evident that they cannot play.

Some are kept as servants.

But this boy was neither shunned nor objected to servitude. Not from what I knew anyway. I mean, sure he was shunned, but not like the others. He still lived here with the rest of us, even if he was treated like dirt.

Nobody should be treated like dirt in my opinion, not even a Faulty.


Something about the way the air seemed to still when I entered the courtyard the following day triggered a shiver to inch up the back of my neck.

Something was wrong.

The others whispered in huddled groups and bore expressions borderline terrified.

I approached a group near my age and asked what was up.

“He’s coming. He’s dangerous.” one said as she slowly inched away from me. “I suggest we leave.

“I don't understand.” I hissed back. “What. Is. Going. On.?”

The others just shook their heads and rushed out of the room. Then they left through the huge double doors that would almost certainly lead to certain doom.

They left.

And this fact more than anything else happening is what scared me. Nobody ever left. 

Not ever. 

Leaving could mean suicide. It meant treason and betrayal to the rest of us. And yet, here were some who were being scared into leaving their very home.

But by what?

I glanced around at my surroundings as more and more of the others betrayed everything we stood for. This is our home! I wanted to scream after them.

You can't leave.

A newfound determination burned inside me. I would not be like those who flee, I decided. I would never betray my family no matter how scary this new threat was.

Or what it would do to any who stayed back to find out.

I began to run, but not in the way some of the others were. I was running away from the massive doors. I had to find out what all of this havoc was about.

As I was running towards the danger, I realized with a start that others were coming with me. I was not the only one choosing this tribe over safety. Most of our clan was heading in this direction, the hatred of those who had abandoned us reflecting in each one of our eyes.

Along with a fierce determination to protect their home above all else.

I wondered if they would give their lives for this place.

I wondered if I would.

But now was not the time to wonder. It was time to act.

“Hey,” I called out to someone, anyone who would listen. “What is this all about? Why did those others leave?”

A chorus of “yeah’s” and “She’s right” and “what is this all about?” erupted from my question. A few looked down in horror at the question, one brave soul ran up in front of us all to halt us.

We obeyed.

“It’s a Faulty,” he said. “He’s… He has a contrivance… or a” the man could not seem to find the words for what he was describing. 

“It’s like a contrivance, but not. He plays it, but there is no mouth hole, the council is confused about how he is even able to play it.”

“Is it..” a girl next to me squeaked. “Does it…”

“It’s very powerful.” the man sighed, losing his gusto. “Too powerful.”

Almost simultaneously, the expressions of everyone around me turned from determined to horrified.

"A Faulty?" I gasp with a shaky breath.

And all too suddenly I know who this faulty is, and what kind of Contrivance he is playing.


An eerie shriek-like sound fills my ears as I enter the Faulty's quarters. 

The boy stands there holding his contrivance-like object as I slowly approach him. He doesn't seem to notice as I sneak up from behind. he is too engrossed in the music he is playing. His fingers fly across his contrivance as the notes sing in the room. His eyes are closed in concentration and what I interpret as- 

A calmness? 

He is slightly smiling and I can't help but notice how different the music he plays is. It sounds slow and peaceful, the high notes don't squeak, but sing.

It's amazing.

I can hear crashing and screaming behind me, but somehow, I don't care. I am too engrossed in this thing the Faulty is playing. I can't take my eyes off it.

Or him, the Faulty.

He is so serene and tranquil as the notes flow from him and his device that resembles a stick he uses to play out the notes. I can't help but find the scene beautiful. 

After what seems like only mere minutes, but logically I know that it has been hours, he slowly lowers his contrivance from where it rested upon his neck and shoulder. He had a look of satisfaction on his face. A look of a job well done. 

But something else was in his eyes. there was a sense of sorrow there.

Maybe even regret.

But the boy's expression left him suddenly when his eyes met mine. He raised the strange contrivance back to it's resting spot.

"Wait!" I called before he could play, holding my hands up in front of me.

He glanced at me, curious.

"Your playing is astounding! How did you do that?" I breathed with an exasperated breath. "You have to show the elders! This- what you can do- Its amazing!"

The boy looked at the floor.

"The Elders are gone," he said.

My eyes must have filled with understanding, because the boy played out a note, as if to warn me.

"What will you do now?" I asked nervously.

"I-" the boy began to say something, but his eyes drifted to mine before he could get the words out. A spark flashed in his eye.

"How would you like to learn to play an entirely different kind of Contrivance," he said. 

A smile overtook my face at the words. I had been hoping he'd ask this.

"Join me in a revolution." he continued. "Help me change our world.

Let us show the world what we can do."

He held out his hand to me.

Slowly, hesitantly, I took it. All my life I had tried to accept our society, giving into the brainwashing and lies they told us. I had even tried to protect this home of mine.

What else had there been to save?

But now there was a bigger opportunity. Something more.

The boy handed me his contrivance, just as slow and hesitant as I had been to take his hand.

I lifted the thing, wondering how hard it would be to learn.

I knew I could do it though, heck, a Faulty had done it! There was no reason that I could not.

I looked into the boy's eyes, fierce and more determined than ever.

"let's do this," I said.

April 24, 2020 19:33

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Cam Croz
19:34 Apr 24, 2020

This kind of turned into the beginning of a Novel. XD not sure how that happened! Please leave feedback though! It would be highly appreciated! Thank you anyone for reading!


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Pragya Rathore
08:59 Jun 02, 2020

I loved the ending! Beautifully crafted. Well done writing perfectly! Please like and comment on my stories too!


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Vrishni Maharaj
23:28 Jun 01, 2020

Hey, this is lovely!!


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Daryl Gravesande
11:21 May 24, 2020

I love this story! I ESPECIALLY loved the ending. Perfectly closed ending to an amazing short story! I would be grateful if you could like and read my stories too!


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02:09 Apr 27, 2020

I'd love to read more of this. Maybe you could follow it up with a sequel or expand on it in some way later on.


Cam Croz
02:29 Apr 27, 2020

Thank you Cynthia! I might?


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Harken Void
19:35 Apr 26, 2020

Music based magic system - I love the idea, so much so, that I'm working on a novel that is based around that concept. This story started intriguing, though there was a lot of abstractness (characters thinking about stuff) and not a whole lot concreteness (characters doing stuff), which made it hard to be certain of what was happening and why. Going onward there was a shift when the female character went from abstractness to suddenly taking action in the world which was also a bit confusing and sudden. I would like to see more description...


Cam Croz
21:23 Apr 26, 2020

Thank you Harken for the feedback. The reason I didn't specify about the tribe and such was because I honestly had no clue what to do on that, and didnt have enough time before the end of the contest to think about it. You are very right, however, about it being a very random story. I hardly ever plan my stories. (I find it very hard for some reason! Whenever I try to plan them I usually end up getting frustrated) It's so cool how you can notice that! I personally would have liked to work on this more, (review it, make it longer, he...


Harken Void
09:23 Apr 27, 2020

You're welcome, Cam. Feedback is king amongst writers ;) Well, if you want to you can freely expand on it now, in your free time besides the contest (no word limits and such). Who knows, this could be the start of a novel? As for planning vs. pantsing (writing from the top of your head) I face a different problem and that is that when I plan, I get too much ideas and derail the original inspiration for the story. And if I 'pants' I start out super excited and it's great, until I reach a point where it just stops and I don't know where to g...


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L. M.
18:13 Apr 26, 2020

Such an inventive way to realize the prompt. Very good.


Cam Croz
18:59 Apr 26, 2020

Thanks Lara!


L. M.
19:34 Apr 26, 2020

You're welcome. :)


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17:12 Apr 26, 2020

I loved this story ❤️ So much passion and creativity went into this. It was such a great approach to the prompt 👍, as others have mentioned here also.


Cam Croz
18:59 Apr 26, 2020

Thank you Cynthia! I apreaciate it!


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✰ Jessica ✰
14:00 Apr 26, 2020

This story is very different than those I have read! This is a very interesting way to interpret the prompt, and I find that impressive. You took the prompt and turned your story into something more than was expected. I LOVED your vocabulary. It made me want to rip out my dictionary. I also like that you didn't name the 'Faulty''s instrument by name. It helped me imagine what it was. I now realize it was the violin. I actually took fiddle for 2 years so this is very relatable. Great job Cam Croz. 👍


Cam Croz
16:36 Apr 26, 2020

Thank you Jessica! I was going for a unique spin on the prompt! Im glad you enjoyed it!


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Gloria Salazar
13:01 Apr 26, 2020

This was very interesting. I would really enjoy reading the rest of it. There is a feeling of mystery here that does fit well with the prologue of a book, perhaps a series of books. You should tweak the grammar a bit but I enjoyed the read and that is what you're after. Something that will be read and talked about. Good job.


Cam Croz
16:37 Apr 26, 2020

Thanks Gloria! Im happy that you enjoyed it!


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