Contest #179 shortlist ⭐️

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Fantasy Fiction Friendship

Now, Tinny wasn’t a procrastinator; it was Time who was always in a hurry. It was only yesterday when the year had begun, and somehow Time had managed to squeeze a lot more than a day in the twenty-four hours since then. And now Tinny was left playing catch-up.

Her own fault that there was even a game to play, really. A resolution list, she had made! As if dreams were docile enough to agree to spend a year confined to the page. But the notion had seemed appealing when Milya told her about it, in Milya’s house exactly a year ago.

“Oh, it’s perfectly delightful!” Milya had declared, waving her arms around.

“You put your goals on a piece of paper and they come true?” Tinny had scoffed. “Magic don’t work like that. There’s regulations—don’t know what they are—but I reckon they’re binding and all.”

“It is magic, Tin. It’s … Willpower.”

“I ain’t heard of that. See, there’s the Elemental powers, and then there’s Mathematical magic. Ah, there is the odd art of Moving Very Small Things For A Very Short Distance By Grunting Really Hard At Them. That, you mean?”

“Tin, Tin, Tin,” Milya had said, walking over to where Tinny was sitting on the couch. Tinny had wished her nostrils clogged up, so much did Milya reek of alcohol. She had placed a notebook and a pen on the coffee table. “How can an old witch like you spend a lifetime without ever finding out about Willpower?”

“I got them other magics.”

“Now, listen. Think hard about what you want from the rest of the year—next year, I mean. And then make a list, or write a letter to yourself.”

“Right …” Tinny had been apprehensive—rightly so. Writing letters to yourself is where madness begins. Isn’t the daily dialogue enough?

“You tell yourself all the things you want to get done in the year,” Milya had said. “And then you get them done!”

“What happens if I don’t?”

Milya had scratched her head at that. “Well, nothing really. I suppose you get them done next year. But, come, it’s the challenge of the thing!”

“Things don’t challenge people. And certainly not a witch.”

Milya had eyed her appraisingly. “I got more done this year than the last one, you know? I made a resolution list last year. Changed my life, it did.”

“My life don’t need changing,” Tinny had said, and though she would have denied all allegations, the thought tempted her. A little change is always a good thing—ask a baby’s bottom.

“You’ll get a new power,” Milya had said, with a satisfied twinkle in her eye.

“Willpower?”

“Willpower.”

And now, a year had zipped by, and Tinny was flying over to Milya’s house, with only a few minutes left in the year, having crossed not one thing off her list of resolutions. Willpower had never shown up at Tinny’s doorstep; she wanted to see if it had bothered with Milya’s.

A minute later, she landed in Milya’s driveway. The night was a quiet and cold one. There was no one about—at least no one alive. A few spirits roamed here and then. But they usually ignored the living, and so, Tinny, like all smart witches, ignored them back.

She knocked at Milya’s door. No answer came, so she gave it four hard raps.

“Coming, for God’s sake! Better not be you caroling lot, coming round for my cake and money again!” The door swung inward, presenting a disheveled Milya to Tinny and the rest of the world. Half of her silver hair was matted to the side of her head, and the rest was somewhere between staying put and a confused audience member wondering if an act really was worthy of a standing ovation. Her robe hung loosely from her shoulders, tied hastily around her waist as it was. And she stank of alcohol.

Milya, however, seemed oblivious to her deplorable state. No witch should entertain a guest in such a manner. That was what Enchantresses were for!

“Goodness,” Milya said, seemingly surprised to see Tinny.

“Not much,” Tinny said, pushing past Milya into her house. She had always considered niceties to be a bother invented by the otherwise unemployed, and there was especially no time to waste tonight. A few more minutes and the year was up. Tinny had never suffered the losing side of a deal, and she wasn’t about to start now.

“Listen, I’ll get straight to the bone,” Tinny said, as Milya closed the door.

“You brought meat?” Milya asked.

“No—what?”

“You said you were getting to the bone right away. I—”

“It’s a manner of talking, Milya! It means, getting to the point to save time.”

Milya threw her hands up. “Well, if you wanted to save time, you should have just said that. I’ve always found indirect phrases cumbersome. Because, you see, there’s no bone here tonight—not in a lady’s house, there isn’t!”

“Charming,” Tinny said, raising her eyebrows in exasperation. Sometimes it was hard to remember how her association with Milya had turned into friendship. But, Tinny reckoned, that must be the way with most good friendships. So many places were good enough to be the beginning, that it was easier to assume that the friendship had always been around. People say you choose your friends; people are delusional.

“Listen, Milya. I ain’t got no time tonight. I’m here—”

“At almost midnight! Not very polite, some might say.”

Tinny rolled her eyes. “When was the last time you met a polite witch? We’ve got a reputation to uphold, see? And, anyway, I have come here because I need your help.”

Milya sat on the couch, gesturing to Tinny to do the same. “What help?”

Tinny moved a heap of clothes and a few empty wine bottles from the couch and sat beside Milya. Then, she said, “I need you to tell me about Willpower.”

Milya raised an eyebrow. “Willpower?”

“Yes. Tell me how do I access it? I’ve spent the entire day going through tomes I had about Witchcraft—read even some about Wizardry.”

“Oh, Wizardry’s most horrendous stuff!” Milya chimed in.

“Right,” said Tinny through clenched teeth. There wasn’t any time to lose! “Tell me, please! A year ago, you told me Willpower will help me complete this resolution list. And I ain’t got to a single one!” She pulled out her resolution list from the depths of her coat and waved it in Milya’s face, almost accusatorily. It was in this very room last year, after all, where Milya had torn off a page from a notebook and placed a pen in Tinny’s hand. That had been the start of the trouble.

Milya looked at Tinny for a long while, her face taut and impassive. A dog barked in the distance somewhere. It must have seen a spirit pass.

Milya burst out laughing. A roaring laughter, like thunder echoing down hills. Her laughter morphed into a cackle, which often happened with witches, as was assumed by most. There are fewer myths in the world than there are truths; a witch’s cackle being one of them.

Tinny grew hotter and redder. Her brows raised, her fists clenched, she suffered the embarrassment in silence. However, she wasn’t sure how much longer she could endure it.

She was glad that she wouldn’t have to find out, for Milya’s cackles eased into soft chuckles. And those Tinny could handle. Finally, Milya spoke. “Not a thing, you say?”

“No, I tell you.”

“How did that even happen? Did you do nothing all year?”

“It ain’t like that.” Tinny had in fact had a very busy year. She had flown around the world once again, her services being requested by several important people, and also by some world leaders. She had visited three war-torn nations and helped distribute food and other things to the ones that needed them. She had also, with the help of her education in Foresight, prevented several political assassinations. It wasn’t that she cared much about every monarch or president she saved, but the chaos and bloodshed that followed a bitter assassination was a cost Tinny was against paying. And to know a forthcoming evil and to do nothing to thwart it was as good as instigating it. There was conscience to worry about, among other things.

Amid all that, and with her faith in Willpower, Tinny had forgotten all about her list and the things that made it up. And now the year was almost up. And Milya wouldn’t get to the point. There was a gravity to certain situations in life, Tinny thought. They led you right toward rage—and failing that, mild insanity.

“I lost track,” Tinny conceded. That was the truth. A witch ought to keep her word, even the one she gave to herself. The world would fall apart, should a witch ever descend to dishonesty.

Milya looked at her thoughtfully for a second. Then, she asked, “Eggnog?”

Tinny stared at her blankly. Nothing got through to the woman. “Milya, I ain’t messing around. I got things to do before the clock strikes twelve!”

Milya, nonetheless, poured them a tall glass of eggnog each. “I’ll let you in on a secret about Willpower.”

“To the bone, now,” warned Tinny.

“It doesn’t exist.”

Tinny drew back and watched Milya as she sipped away at her glass of eggnog. Doesn’t exist? Had she made a fool out of Tinny? No one made a fool out of a witch and went back to their Maker in the shape they were sent in—not even another witch.

“What you on about?” Tinny asked.

“Come on, Tinny! I was drunk like a truck driver. I was spewing nonsense! There isn’t any Willpower. I probably was just talking about wanting to do things.”

“But that makes no sense. Of course, if I wish to do something, I ought to want it!”

Milya wrinkled her nose. “Ah, that’s right, isn’t it? Well, you could do what I do!”

Tinny stared at her until she was forced to go on.

“I use a little something called the Push,” Milya said.

“Now, what in your Maker’s name is the Push?”

“It’s ancient magic,” Milya began in a conspiratorial tone. “What you do is, you just Push your current year’s resolutions onto the next year!” She cackled, once again, then drank some more eggnog, and spilled the rest of it down her robe.

Tinny got up to leave, shaking her head. Sometimes, it was difficult to remember why you were friends with certain people. “Well, thanks for nothing, Milya.”

“What? Hey! I mean it,” Milya said, as Tinny walked away. “You take the things you want this year, and you push them onward. And onward. And onward.”

“Goodbye, Milya,” Tinny said, opening the door.

“Gives you an excellent reason to keep on living.”

Tinny stopped, her hand clutching the doorknob. She turned around. Milya was sitting on the floor with her knees folded beneath her, her robe streaked with eggnog. It was a sorry sight, and a sore one.

Milya chuckled and some eggnog spluttered out of her mouth. “You Push, you live. You can’t die yet, you see? You’ve got things to do. Things to do. At least, you’ve got something to do.” Milya turned to Tinny, her face twisted in agony and self-pity. “Isn’t that so?”

Tinny thought, perhaps for the first time, about who her friend actually was. The last time Tinny had met Milya had been a year ago. And the year before that, she had met her on Christmas. What did Milya do with all her time, really? Who was Milya when Tinny wasn’t around?

The doorknob grew cold in her hand. The air, too, had picked up a colder character. But she had been through weathers much worse—everyone does, once they’ve been around for long enough.

But perhaps some needed more help getting through than others.

There were things Tinny had to do and she must get them done before the year was up; witches didn’t lose! And yet, a witch sat defeated not ten steps from her. But she had led Tinny on. Milya had known the kind of woman Tinny was, how important her own promises were to her. And yet, she had led her on.

But wasn’t Tinny her own person? She hadn’t gotten to her age by assigning blame to others. She cherished her autonomy too much to let someone else get any credit for her actions.

Tinny closed the door behind her. There wasn’t to be a debate about it. She had things to do, and she would get them done.

Just not this year.

Milya looked up at her through groggy eyes. “Tinny? When did you get here?”

Tinny smiled. “Oh, only just now. What are you doing on the floor?”

Milya laughed. “Counting the tiles, perhaps.”

Tinny laughed as well, sitting down beside her. There were many ways to help a friend. Talking and explaining could wait; now was the time for just being there.

Milya rested her head on Tinny’s shoulder, mumbling something incomprehensible.

The night was a cold and quiet one. The dog, too, respecting its sanctity, had ceased his barking.

Later that night, after using Levitation to put Milya into bed, Tinny returned to Milya’s living room. She used a combination of Levitation and Moving Very Small Things For A Very Short Distance By Grunting Really Hard At Them to clean out the room, before Summoning a notebook and a pen.

She copied her resolution list onto a new page, and as the clock struck twelve, she set fire to the old list. There. Done with that.

She sat there for a long time, thinking about the events of the night. Finally, she came to a decision. She would add another item to her list of resolutions.

She penned down the promise. Something about her friend. Something about helping her find new promises to keep. Something about helping her keep the ones she had already made. A witch’s word, after all, ought to be followed.

January 06, 2023 15:47

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18 comments

C.B. Chribby
19:37 Feb 03, 2023

Adorable! I love the whimsical names for spells and the worldbuilding. Rules for magic, the different kinds of magic, the subtle differences between the two friends-- all are interwoven very well. Great stuff!

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19:30 Feb 17, 2023

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

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J H
03:43 Jan 18, 2023

Wow. I really, REALLY loved this!! The magic and rules of the world was integrated oh so smoothly into the story, and I just LOVE the characters themselves! I especially love how it got serious, and Tinny started reflecting. That was awesome, and so are you!

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19:30 Feb 17, 2023

Thank you for this kind review! Glad you enjoyed my story!

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Suma Jayachandar
03:53 Jan 14, 2023

This was such a delightful and interesting read. Congratulations! Look forward to reading more!

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09:00 Jan 14, 2023

Thank you!

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AnneMarie Miles
20:44 Jan 13, 2023

Congratulations on making the board! This was such a wonderful imaginative story! 🎉🎉🎉

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09:00 Jan 14, 2023

Thanks, again!

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Wendy Kaminski
17:54 Jan 13, 2023

Awesome! Huge congrats on the shortlist this week!

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09:00 Jan 14, 2023

Thank you so much!

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Fleur Manson
23:23 Jan 09, 2023

very good

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13:15 Jan 10, 2023

Thanks!

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Laurel Hanson
22:14 Jan 09, 2023

Love - "Half of her silver hair was matted to the side of her head, and the rest was somewhere between staying put and a confused audience member wondering if an act really was worthy of a standing ovation." Seriously, that is hilarious. Charming story.

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17:25 Jan 10, 2023

I'm glad that it made you laugh! And thank you so much!

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AnneMarie Miles
17:17 Jan 09, 2023

Hi Prithviraj! I found you on the recommended stories page, congratulations :) it is so wonderful to read your work for the first time. You are a talented writer. The first thing I noticed is how well you know your characters and how well you know their world. Every little detail fit so naturally and seamlessly into the dialogue and action. For example: Moving Very Small Things For A Very Short Distance By Grunting Really Hard At Them - this is both comedic and purposeful, and it gives us a glimpse into their world and sets the magical tone....

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17:27 Jan 10, 2023

You made my day! Thank you for this awesome review; thrilled that you liked it!

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Delbert Griffith
19:30 Jan 07, 2023

This is a really excellent story, Prithviraj. I love the everyday feel of a witch's world, and all of the witch ambiance that you spiced the tale with was wonderful. To top it off, this was also quite heartwarming. Nicely done. Nicely done indeed.

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14:21 Jan 08, 2023

I'm so happy you liked it! And thank you for your kind review!

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