61 comments

Speculative Fiction Fantasy

“Memory is more indelible than ink.”

Her name is forgotten by time, and she writes letters. 

She is the ink to the quill, the paper to the typewriter. She is the words one speaks, and the silence between them. She is outdated, but she is new and fresh to those who have not come by her before. 

She writes letters in ink, for in her opinion that is the only true way to write. She writes from dusk to dawn, penning new phrases and words no one has heard. She writes voices for those in her mind who are voiceless, and she writes songs of sorrow for those who cannot sing. 

She writes in her tiny cottage by the sea, her windows always open. She enjoys the breeze of the wind, as it brings voice to her quill. She loves the whispers of the sea, the energy of the wind. It brings her own voice and energy, so she has never moved away. Her dying grey hair splits at the bottom, her old, fragile bones taking longer to write. She is old, but she has knowledge, knowledge the world would die for. 

She looks down at her quill, noting the intricate curves on the bottom that hold onto the ink before she presses it down once more. She had used the same quill for many years, but now she uses a new one, one that holds more ink and therefore can tell more stories. Still, she misses the old quill's grip in her hand, the ease of pressing it down to make a simple mark. 

It is morning, and she has not written anything yet. Yet, she does not want to write today. She wants to go to the sea like she used to as a child. She wants to dip her toes into the water just like she dips her pen into her ink, and drag them out, writing words in the sand. She wants to meet new people, and experience new things. 

She tugs at her white hair, once ebony, now ivory. Slowly, she stands, putting her hands on her desk to balance herself. She has not stood up in a long time, and not left the small cottage she lives in even in longer. 

She looks down at her work, at the letters she has written. They are short, but she is still not proud of them. She filled the pages with little doodles of flowers and pupils of eyes in her usual black ink. 

She frowns, and puts them in the drawer under her desk. Today’s will be better, she promises herself. Today’s letters will reflect the ocean air. 

The door creaks as she stumbles towards it, fresh air illuminating the room as she swings it open. The windows only bring so much, she realizes, thoughtfully. It is the true outside that brings the most brightness. 

Somewhere in her mind, she saves that line for a letter. 

She manages to bring herself farther forward towards the sea, down the hill her little cottage is located atop of. She breathes the air fresher than before, with it’s salty ocean scent. She loves it. It’s like a good dessert - sweet and savory. The perfect balance. 

She used to cook, but she does not anymore. Now, she simply writes, writes letters and writes stories. 

The wind blows her dress to the side, its color the same pearly off-white as her hair. She wears a pearl around her neck, too, but it is different, as it is a darker color. A black baroque pearl, one of the rarest kinds. Irregular in shape and in color. 

It’s chain is thin and long, made from the same material as her old quill. She turns her head towards the sea, thinking about how the waves touch the sandy shores, when the necklace comes off with the wind, one great wave taking it away into the water. 

She runs towards the sea, letting her feet touch the ocean.  She runs and she runs. “Give it back!” she cries out, screaming at the ocean. She has not spoken in years, so her voice is old and tired. “Give me back my pearl!”

The ocean grins in response, its waves stretching left and right. “Oh, no,” a voice says, calling it from the distance. “We cannot do that, letter-writer. It was ours, and it always will be.”

She looks forward, trying to find the voice. She knows not every person has a voice, which is why she writes them, but she has not yet met a voice with no speaker. Finally, she sees her, a child, perhaps a teenager, wearing a flowing blue dress with matching blue eyes. Her hair is a light auburn, with streaks of the orange sunlight. She smiles with the waves, letting her eyes crinkle in the light. “Oh, letter-writer,” she says with a grin. “So, we meet again.”

“Who are you?” Our protagonist replies, her own eyes still locked on the pearl. The child smiles, clutching the necklace in her hand. “Do you not remember?” she says, her voice lowering. “You once wrote a letter for me.”

“But I haven’t written a letter in many years,” the letter-writer replies, her eyes drifting their gaze from the child’s hands to her own steady glare forward. “At least, not for anyone else. I just write letters for myself and for the people in my mind who cannot tell their own stories.”

“The people in your mind?”

“Yes,” she says, nodding to herself. “The characters, you may call them. They come through me, and I let them tell their own stories on the paper.”

“Is that really a letter?” Her head tilts backwards as she speaks. 

“I suppose you could call it a story, if you preferred. But I call it a letter, as I am the one writing it.” She pauses, thinking of her writing. “But I write letters, too. I write letters to the people I have spoken to, to the people I know I will eventually forget. I write so that I can remember.”

The girl laughs, more of a cackle than a grin like before. “And yet,” she says, tightening her grasp on the pearl. “And yet, you have failed, as you have forgotten me.”

“It seems I have,” she replies, letting her own voice waver. “What is your name, child?”

“I would tell you,” she says, her eyes narrowing. “If you did not steal from me any more.”

“But I do not steal from you.” She glances up in confusion, the wind blowing her to and fro. “You say I stole my pearl from you, but I did not. It was a gift, from someone long ago.”

“Precisely.”

She frowns again, her hair being ruffled by the wind. “You seem to know more about me than I know,” she says, her voice rising with the wind in confusion. “If that is the case, then what have I stolen?”

“I do,” the child replies once more. “And you write in ink, do you not? Ink is from the ocean, you know, from the bodies of the octopus and the squid. You steal from us every day, and you have never seemed to care.”

Her own blue dress ruffles up with her maple red hair. She forcefully stands her ground against the wind, Perhaps it is her age that makes her so strong, or perhaps it is the sheer amount of power she holds. 

“Letter-writer,” she begins once again. “Have you nothing to say?”

“No,” says the letter-writer. “No, I do remember you. I just never wrote you, I always drew you.”

The child frowns. “You drew me?” She asks, her face growing pale. “You drew me with the ink you have stolen from my ocean, simply to preserve my memory, a memory others will be able to see? How dare you draw me.”

But the letter-writer frowns, her voice still wavering. “Iris,” she whispers out, tracing the outline of a flower in the air. A flower identical to the ones on her cream colored paper in her room. “You are Iris. Iris of the Ocean. You came to me, asking for a letter to the sky. I remember laughing, for Iris was the messenger of the sky and of all letters in the old tales, but you said you were not named for the rainbow or for the skies, simply for the flowers in the ground and the center of one’s eye. You said you would be the messenger, however, for you must deliver a letter one could never hear about.”

The girl smiles, her own irises glinting in the sunlight. “Well done,” she says. “But still, have you no remorse for the ink you have stolen?”

“I wrote you a letter,” the letter-writer continued. “A letter to the sky from the seas. And, in return, you gave me a pearl as my payment, a small black pearl, irregular in shape. A gift, you said. A gift from the ocean.”

“Also true,” says Iris of the Ocean. “But technology has long replaced ink. You could use typewriters, if you truly needed to write. But you insist on ink, ink made from my seas.”

“Do you,” the letter-writer starts, her voice fading out into the oblivion of the seas and wind. “Do you - do you know my name?”

She pauses, thinking about how to explain her question. “Iris of the Ocean, do you know who I am? All I know is that I write letters. I do not know whether they are stories or letters anymore. I do not know if you were one I made up from my mind or remembered. All I know is the paper and the quill, all I know is the past I was given, a past I now forget. I use the ink of the seas because I remember the seas, I use ink because I know it well. I could use a typewriter, but the letters wouldn’t have my touch to them. No one would ever be able to read them and know they were mine.”

Iris sighs, her shoulders dropping. She leans down to the sea, reaching to pick up a dollop of the ocean. A sphere of water. Slowly, she inserts the necklace inside of the sphere, letting it float in her own makeshift briny, blue sea. 

“I know your name, letter-writer,” she says. “I know who you are, and I know who you could be. You have not come to the seas in years, letter-writer. You live right here, and yet only now you can explain why you use my ink. Here is your pearl. A gift from the sea, something for you to hold onto. But you must promise to no longer write in ink. 

If you can make this promise, I will tell you your name, as well, for the ocean knows you well. The wind will remember you from now on, and the seas will continue your legacy. You did not tell me your name before when we met, but I have learned it over time.”

The letter-writer smiles, reaching her hand forward. “That’s a deal,” she says, her eyes wide with happiness. “Thank you, Iris of the Ocean.”

“Thank you, Runa.”

“Runa?” She asks, her eyes growing wider. “That’s my name?”

“Yes.”

She frowns, looking back up to see Iris’s auburn hair and blue eyes, but they are gone, replaced with the wind and the seas. She is gone, gone back to her home. To the ocean.

The letter-writer begins to climb up the hill once more to her cottage by the seas, ready to go into town for a typewriter.

Her name is Runa, and she writes letters.

January 27, 2021 01:06

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

61 comments

Zilla Babbitt
01:54 Jan 27, 2021

Man, that last line. It's a powerful thing. Lyrical and beautiful as always, Maya. I suggest you don't mention that she has forgotten her name -- let it come out of the blue. Well, I have few critiques. I do have a challenge, though. You, like Ru and Scout and Abigail, constantly write poetic, wistful, prose poems, driven by prose and character. For your next, I challenge you to do the unorthodox. A story driven by plot. A crime story or mystery would be nice. I challenged Scout to do that and she did, and afterwards was shortlisted and won...

Reply

Maya W.
01:59 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you! It's definitely a honor to be categorized at the same level as Scout and Ru and Abi! I actually wrote a more plot driven story for my novella recently, so I'd love to practice writing them more. I'll think about what I can do with the new prompts, though. We'll see!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Maya W.
01:10 Jan 27, 2021

I'm much more proud of this one's than yesterday's, though I think the ending isn't great. Please critique it to no end, though. Enjoy!

Reply

Show 0 replies
21:33 Jan 30, 2021

I have literally lost track of whether I have commented on certain stories or not, but if I have, well, I'll say it all again! This story was amazing! I loved everything about it, and it was just beautiful. I also love the name Runa by the way. Great job!

Reply

Maya W.
22:11 Jan 30, 2021

I had to check your name because you changed it, lol. Anyways, thank you so much!

Reply

13:55 Jan 31, 2021

Haha no problem! I changed my pen name to my real name.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kristin Neubauer
21:18 Jan 30, 2021

This is such an ethereal story - I like how Zilla describes it "wistful." I WISH I could write like that. It felt like that magical realism that comes out of Latin America - which are always so mysterious and mystical. You wrote so beautifully - I could see the images....I could hear the voice narrating the story and I could hear the waves crashing in the background. Incredible!

Reply

Maya W.
21:22 Jan 30, 2021

Thank you, Kristin! I was actually really inspired by Latin American magical realism when I wrote this, though the story I'm writing now in the same universe is much more plot based (per Zilla's request).

Reply

Kristin Neubauer
21:27 Jan 30, 2021

I am looking forward to it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Frances Reine
15:34 Jan 27, 2021

There's something so precious about "ebony" and "ivory" being so close together. This is beautiful, like handmade jewellery. Love this so much.

Reply

Maya W.
18:29 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you, Frances! Haha, did you know that I make jewelry, too?

Reply

Frances Reine
18:36 Jan 27, 2021

No way!! That's so neat, haha.

Reply

Maya W.
18:48 Jan 27, 2021

Yup. I guess between my love of cooking, jewelry, and writing I have expressed a good chunk of myself with this week's prompts.

Reply

Frances Reine
18:50 Jan 27, 2021

Haha, they're about hobbies anyway. You writing next week too?

Reply

Maya W.
18:51 Jan 27, 2021

I plan to! Zilla challenged me to write a more plot based story, so we'll see if I can think of something to write this week or if I have the time.

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
K. Antonio
13:38 Jan 27, 2021

Hey Maya, nice story. Imma give you a lengthy critique so bear with me: ..."She writes in her tiny cottage by the sea, her windows always open. She enjoys the breeze of the wind, as it brings voice to her quill. She loves the whispers of the sea, the energy of the wind. " - This sentences seems redundant. Your essentially repeating two elements. I say choose either the first sentence or the second. We can infer that with the windows open the receives breezes, that she can hear the sea. I say stick with the first sentence and shorten the s...

Reply

Maya W.
13:47 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you! I have read Mollie's story, it was actually the winner of the first contest I participated in. I will edit with some of your critiques later, I have finals today.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
. .
12:54 Jan 27, 2021

THIS. WAS. GREAT. I think that you write a lot of great, flowy pieces, but make sure the tone stays consistent, because doodle seems out of place in the beautiful language of the beginning. Also, it would very much interest me if you did a plot story because this didn't really have one, but I LARBED IT SO MUCH. The act of finding one's name is so important in dystopian literature, so that was great.

Reply

Maya W.
13:04 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you, Luke! Btw, is "larb" a reference to the actual Thai dish larb or just Homecoming? Because either way, I larb it!

Reply

. .
13:06 Jan 27, 2021

Larb is from Homecoming, yes, but the character made it up while eating the dish, larb, so I guess either one!! LARBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB!!

Reply

Maya W.
13:08 Jan 27, 2021

Haha, yeah. Larb is really good. So is Homecoming, I guess.

Reply

. .
13:09 Jan 27, 2021

YESH THEY ARE!!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Yolanda Wu
03:45 Jan 27, 2021

Wow, this was such a beautiful story, Maya. I honestly love the way you write, it feels like I'm floating in your wonderful descriptions. I especially love the style of writing you chose for this story, those words just sucked me in and didn't let me go. I love how you wrote Runa's character and her connection to the letters she writes, even though most people use typewriters. The whole vibe of the ocean was wonderful, and the idea that ink is something taken from the ocean, and so is the pearl that she bears. Her interaction with Iris was w...

Reply

Maya W.
03:51 Jan 27, 2021

Thanks! I really enjoyed writing this, too - inspiration hit midway through the day so I spent my time writing. I’m not sure that it’s great, but I like it enough to post it.

Reply

Yolanda Wu
04:17 Jan 27, 2021

Haha yeah, I get that, you're just going about your day when suddenly inspiration strikes. It's the worst when I'm trying to do work but then I come up with something, because then I can't focus on my work, lol.

Reply

Maya W.
22:12 Jan 27, 2021

Yup!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Maya W.
23:41 Jan 27, 2021

Hey, do you think I should try writing a novella out of this story?

Reply

Yolanda Wu
00:22 Jan 28, 2021

I feel like that could work, because there is quite a lot in the story that could be expanded. You should definitely give it a shot!

Reply

Maya W.
01:27 Jan 28, 2021

Maybe I will! Probably once I'm done with the current novella, though.

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
R. K.
19:14 Feb 03, 2021

I read this so long ago, but I have time now. I love the ink concept. I love your descriptions! I love that she finds her name and the last sentence provides much needed closure. I literally don't have any critique. But I like the idea of a challenge, like Zil suggested. Try a story that has shorter sentences that are simple, but cut to the heart and dwell there. Happy writing!

Reply

Maya W.
19:17 Feb 03, 2021

Thanks, Ru! I'm actually turning this into a novella now, but I sorta hate it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Winter Blizzard
23:29 Feb 02, 2021

Hi Maya! I said I would look at your stories, and sorry for the delay! But, Ok firstly, Great job! I loved how anonymous it sounded! I think that not introducing the character by name at first, is great! I just felt you should make it a story and not a narration. This is totally my preference, and I story is still fine without it! You said some times, “Our protagonist” and I feel you should just say letter-writer. This is again not I important, but what I prefer. Great job!

Reply

Maya W.
00:43 Feb 03, 2021

Thank you, Neha! This is actually now the prologue to a novella I'm writing, so the majority of the continued story is actually not a narration like this one. I can't edit it now, but I'll keep your feedback in mind!

Reply

Winter Blizzard
16:48 Feb 03, 2021

Ok that make sense! Good luck with your novella! Best of luck, and glad I was some help!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Izzie Chan
20:48 Jan 30, 2021

Hi Maya, this is an amazing story. I absolutely love the poetic way you write! Also, I disagree, I think the ending is good! Ooh, turning this into a novella is a great idea! I have only one critique, though: “She enjoys the breeze of the wind, as it brings voice to her quill. She loves the whispers of the sea, the energy of the wind.” This is a bit repetitive since you mention the wind twice. I would suggest you rephrase it to “She enjoys the breeze of the wind, as it brings voice to her quill. She loves the whispers of the sea, the energ...

Reply

Maya W.
21:02 Jan 30, 2021

Thanks so much, Izzie! I'm a little busy right now, but I'll change that later!

Reply

Izzie Chan
21:31 Jan 30, 2021

No problem!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
. .
15:08 Jan 28, 2021

NEW STORYYYYYYY

Reply

Maya W.
15:17 Jan 28, 2021

I'll check it out!

Reply

. .
15:17 Jan 28, 2021

Aw thanks!! I wasn't expecting you to respond because we don't talk a lot, but I'm glad!! REMEMBER TO TELL ME WHEN ALL OF YOUR STORIES ARE OUT!!!

Reply

Maya W.
15:19 Jan 28, 2021

Lol, okay.

Reply

. .
15:20 Jan 28, 2021

:DDDDDD

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Amany Sayed
20:45 Jan 27, 2021

It's a pretty story. I adore when endings tie to beginnings. Just a thought that was nagging at me while reading- ink is needed inside of typewriters too. Or printers. So for this ocean spirit thing to want her to use them would really be no difference. Of course, you can take your artistic liberties, but just wanted to mention it. Other than that, I enjoyed reading and the imagery was lovely. Keep writing!

Reply

Maya W.
20:48 Jan 27, 2021

Yeah, ink is used in typewriters, but it's also not usually made from the sea, either. This is sort of it's own fantasy world where our rules don't apply. Thanks for reading!

Reply

Amany Sayed
20:49 Jan 27, 2021

Alright! My pleasure!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Nainika Gupta
15:02 Jan 27, 2021

HEY MAYA! Awesome story as usual, I loved the first sentence, and thought it was a really unique story :D great job!!

Reply

Maya W.
15:04 Jan 27, 2021

Oh hi Nainika! You're back! Thank you!

Reply

Nainika Gupta
15:05 Jan 27, 2021

hey!! Yeah, I'm back - GoL will have part 7 today and no problem!! awesome job again :D

Reply

Maya W.
15:09 Jan 27, 2021

Oh, cool. Gosh, I don't think I've even read part 1 yet...

Reply

Nainika Gupta
15:16 Jan 27, 2021

ahhhhhh I'm biased, but you SHOULD DEFIANTLY READ IT MAYA!!!

Reply

Maya W.
15:17 Jan 27, 2021

Yup, I will! I'm actually on my break between finals right now, but I'll definitely check it out this week. :)

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
05:22 Feb 02, 2021

I got a new story out!!

Reply

Maya W.
13:14 Feb 02, 2021

Oh, hi Sia! We haven't talked in a while! I'll check it out!

Reply

14:12 Feb 02, 2021

Hi! I knoww, thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Maya W.
23:41 Jan 27, 2021

So, I kinda want to turn this into a novella now...

Reply

Show 0 replies