The Lost Relic (A “Book of Choices” Story)

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Set your story within a window of opportunity, when a character finally has the chance to do something.... view prompt

44 comments

Thriller

People sometimes say that windows are like a world of opportunities, and you could miss it if you’re not paying attention. I guess that’s why I’m here in Egypt digging through the hot golden sand in search of a long-lost relic that I believe the aliens buried a long time ago. My very own window of opportunity for fortune and fame

I’m not alone, my partner and benefactor Arby Lawrence, is here with me sitting comfortably in his air-conditioned trailer. He looks ridiculous wearing white shorts with a matching t-shirt and knee-high socks. If he had any compassion he would be out here getting his hands dirty with me, but that man only cares for riches.    

Six months ago, we started scanning the area using the latest high-tech satellites, and we spotted a strange anomaly about a hundred fifty feet south-west from the Great Pyramids of Giza. Infrared scans revealed a bright hot-spot pulsating beneath the ground. Arby put together a world class team of scientists, and archaeologists - an expedition of discovery, he called it. 

A window of opportunity indeed…  

After several months of digging and exploring, the team came up empty time and time again. A second scan of the topography yielded the same results - something was buried there. Over time, Arby started to grow impatient, and anger filled his heart. Without warning he fired everyone in the team leaving me as the last man standing.  

That window just got a lot bigger.

So, here I am digging by myself while that selfish prick sips his tea in comfort. I wish something would happen to him. I would like to see him choke to death on one of his biscuits. I would rush over to his rescue of course, but I wouldn’t act. I would simply watch the life drain from his greedy little eyes and whisper negative thoughts from my unfulfilled life. 

A sharp shrill voice interrupts my chain of thoughts. “William! I need you to get me more strawberry biscuits. I seem to have run out!”  

I throw my shovel down, and reply, “How can I find this lost relic, when you have me running errands for you all day?”  

After an awkward chuckle, he utters, “Don’t be silly William! We are the only ones left. Don’t mistake my brashness for foolishness. Once we find that relic, we will split the profits fifty-fifty!” 

I close my eyes as his words of an empty promise echo through my brain. I choose to remain here because this is my last opportunity for a successful life. My last chance to do something with myself. 

“Well… What are you waiting for?” he yells, wiping the sweat from his wrinkled forehead. “Go get my biscuits before I melt in this dreaded heat!”   

I wish you would melt in this heat, you old fart bag!

I waste little time walking back to the supply van parked several yards away. I can feel the sun getting hotter as it burns the back of my already tanned neck. My sun visor is useless against this mighty power. I rummage through several unmarked boxes until at last I find a pack of strawberry biscuits. I snatch it up like a thief in the night and run back to the dig site. 

“What took you so long?” Arby shouts, standing in the shady area behind his trailer. 

He has no concept of kindness. “I ran as fast as I could!” 

He looks at me with judgmental eyes and points his finger at me. “That’s no excuse for laziness!” 

I take a deep shuddering breath and look at my watch. “It’s break time, I’ll dig some more once I rest a bit. This heat is unbearable.” 

“You will do no such thing William!!” 

What the hell is he talking about?

“You already had your break when you took your time getting my biscuits! Get back to work before I bury you in that hole you dug!”

I can’t believe his unfiltered cruelty! 

I ruffle my face in anger as Arby stomps back into his trailer and slams the door. I turn towards the dig zone, which is roped off with bright yellow tape. My inner thoughts weep in silence. My heart beats heavy and my breath is labored, but I know I need to continue until I find this mysterious relic. I reach into the cooler and grab a bottle of water. I chug about half and pour the rest of the cool liquid over my jet-black hair. Feeling revitalized and refreshed, I pick up the shovel and continue digging.

I dig and plow through the hot sand with quivering arms. I know deep down that I can’t keep this pace up. I’m only one person, I think I can manage a few more scoops before calling it quits for the day. I plunge my shovel deep into the ground and I hear a clank. My eyes light up like exploding fireworks. I raise the shovel high above my head and drive it down again.

Clank!

I throw the shovel to the side and plunge my hands deep into the loose sand. My hands grip around a rectangular object, and I pull with all my might. Sure enough, I soon find myself staring at a black iron container. I dust the access sand away and look over towards Arby’s trailer. I see him through the window stuffing his face with biscuits. My eyes narrow with evil intentions. Maybe I can hide this from him, and keep it for myself…

The window of opportunity has grown exponentially! 

I hunch myself deeper into the hole, so that Arby won’t see me. My curiosity is like a fierce cat. I don’t even know what this thing is yet. I open the box to find a book wrapped in a matted gray cloth. With trembling hands, I slowly reach in and pull it out. 

The book is heavier than I expected, and I quickly rip off the dry rotted cloth like a child would open a Christmas present. The book feels cool to the touch and I gasp in excitement as I see all its wondrous glory. The book is wrapped in a dark leather cover with no words or symbols whatsoever, and its sealed closed with two black straps wrapped around silver gilded edges. 

Is this the lost relic?

I unbuckle the straps and slowly open the book. To my surprise, the thick yellow pages are filled with nothing. I only see a red fabric bookmark carefully sewn into the spine. This can’t be! I flip through the entire book like a supersonic speed reader only to find that every page is empty. 

This must be a mistake, it’s nothing!!  

At that moment, I hear Arby shout from behind me. “Give that to me now!”  

My face grows pale as I look at him. Without saying a word Arby yanks the book from my hands, and one of the thick pages cuts my finger. A small drop of blood soaks into the book causing it to come alive. I see Arby open his mouth wide in astonishment. The book starts to tremble like a small earthquake in his hands, and soon a message appears on one of the blank pages. I quickly make my way over for a closer look. 

Twisty and shiny.

The serpent path lies.

Thrust quickly for thy future awaits.

The message shines brightly for a few seconds, and swiftly disappears. Arby shakes his head in disbelief and fumbles through the pages. He finds nothing…

After a moment of silence, he asks, “Did you get a good look at that message?”

I reach up and rub my face. “I did, but what does it mean?” 

Arby scrunches his lips. “Twisty and shiny, the serpent path lies… Hmm…”

As that selfish prick utters those words, an idea springs to life! 

I snap the idea like a wild animal tamer. “You don’t suppose it’s talking about the Nile River, do you?” 

He lifts his head in an arrogant way, and proclaims, “Mmm… It very well could be. I think we should head over there right now. Maybe another message will appear!”  

I nod my head in agreement, and we rush to the van. I hold the book tightly as Arby drives five miles west from the city Centre of Cairo in unspoken silence. The tension between us is so thick I can literally taste it. As we approach the banks of the Nile River, the first thing I notice is how brightly the sun is reflecting off of the water. 

I lean forward in my seat, and shout, “Look Arby, the Nile is a twisty river, and look how shiny it is, just like a serpent!”  

Arby’s face lights up like a kid in a candy store. “Twisty and shiny like a serpent… You know for once in your pathetic life, you just may be right!”  

How dare you talk to me like that! 

I wish you were dead!  

We park the van by the side of the road and run down to the river which is slithering along like a wild snake. We look around for some type of sign but see nothing. Arby gives me another arrogant look, and I want to punch his lights out!  

“Give me that book again, William! There has to be something more here.” 

I toss the book to him and watch in amazement as he flips through the pages again. His face goes through a wide range of contorted shapes as he finds nothing. He starts laughing, like a mad scientist and throws the book to the ground. 

“This book is worthless! It’s not the lost relic we were looking for!!”  

I don’t know what to say, my gut tells me that there is something more here. Something that we missed. My eyes burst open as I see Arby reach into his pocket to pull out a long-twisted dagger with a serpent on the handle. The blade shines in the sunlight.  

Twisty and shiny.

The serpent path lies.

Thrust quickly for thy future awaits.

No… No… This can’t be what that message means!!  

Arby waves the dagger in front of me like a doggie treat. “I think I know what that message means,” he pauses, to smile. “If I use this blade to kill you, that book will tell me where the lost relic is.”  

I can’t believe this is happening! 

Before I have a chance to speak, Arby thrusts the dagger deep into my stomach with fire in his eyes. Pain races through my body like a hundred wild horses set loose on an open plain. I drop to my knees and a single tear falls from my cheek. As Arby withdrawals the dagger from my abdomen, some of my blood splatters on the book that lies just a few inches away from me. 

I fall to my side unable to speak because I’m too busy coughing up thick globs of blood. My teary eyes glance over to the book as it starts to shake on the ground. To my horror, the book rises up to Arby’s face like some kind of invisible ghost holding it high and proud. 

The book opens before Arby’s eyes. “Yes, this is it William! Now I will know the secret location of the lost relic!!”  

He starts laughing again, and like a snapping dragon the book lunges forward and bites Arby’s face. Before he can scream, his face explodes like a grenade went off in his head. The book suddenly drops to the ground lifeless and empty. Arby’s body falls to the ground and turns into a pile of ash. 

I lay on the ground holding my wound. I have only one thought in my mind. The book gave me what I wanted. Arby is dead, but in some twist of fate, I feel my life coming to an end… 

After a few minutes I see a strange man approach me. Am I saved by a stranger? I see that stranger reach down for the book. The man has no intention of saving me, the stranger only wants the book. My eye’s follow him as he gets into a canoe and thrusts himself down the twisty, shiny, serpent like path of the Nile River where an unknown future awaits...

The last thing that goes through my mind as my eyes grow dark is the message from the book. 

Twisty and shiny.

The serpent path lies.

Thrust quickly for thy future awaits.

The book wanted to escape. 

My window of opportunity is forever closed…  

Daniel R. Hayes

June 07, 2021 01:02

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44 comments

Cole Lane
15:39 Jun 09, 2021

OMG! Dude, you never disappoint! I want to write an ancient Egyptian artifact story now! So cool. First off, you made the prompt the theme of the story by like 10 fold! That IMO is difficult, I read a lot of stories here, and I do it too, where there is a node to the prompt. When you read something that embraces it, that is really quite skillful! OK so now, your characters. This plump bastard Arby (not sure if he was plump, but he ate a lot of biscuits lol), he had to go. I'm thinking, this is a DH story, that guy is going to get his in th...

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Redd Herring
18:05 Jun 11, 2021

Me too Cole. I was hoping that if you followed someone, you would be able to get notice of new submissions. You can jump in too if you have an idea for the book. Info is on my bio on how to title and setup. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/redd-herring/

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Cole Lane
18:18 Jun 11, 2021

Awesome!! I'll take a look! Thank you!

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Daniel R. Hayes
16:02 Jun 09, 2021

Thank you so much Cole! This story was based on Redd Herrings original idea The Book of Choices. Anyone can add a chapter to it. I thought it would be good practice for me to take the idea of that book and write my own story based around his idea and make it work with the prompt. I looked at this as kind of an origin story for the book and of course someone had to die... lol :) I'm always writing something new in my spare time and I usually average about 2 stories a week. I read and commented on your new story as well, it was very go...

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Beth Connor
22:03 Jun 07, 2021

Such a cool take on the book of Choices them and the window prompt. I love how you carried both themes throughout the story. Amazing job!

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Daniel R. Hayes
22:58 Jun 07, 2021

Thank you so much Beth!! I'm so glad you liked it. I left it open in the beginning and end so that other writers can add a chapter to this amazing Universe. I think it was a cool idea to get other writers involved, and I hope we see more stories come from this :) :)

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Redd Herring
15:36 Jun 09, 2021

Great way to give us an origin story on The Book of Choices

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:52 Jun 09, 2021

Thanks Redd, I hope more people decide to write something for this series, it's a great idea and good practice for anyone who takes writing seriously.

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Renata Paschoal
09:58 Jun 07, 2021

If you haven't seen the doc Secrets of the Saqquara tomb, you should.

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:36 Jun 07, 2021

Hi, I haven't seen that. I'll have to check it out!

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Redd Herring
18:55 Jul 03, 2021

If anyone needs this - I THINK right now this might be the order to read the Book of Choices stories (that may change later though when more are written!) * UMBRA by Redd Herring - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/92/submissions/66031/ * The Book of Choices by Redd Herring - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/91/submissions/64590/ * The Book of Choices Podcast - https://crossroadscantina.captivate.fm/episode/the-book-of-choices (This will show how UMBRA and The Book of Choices are related) ...

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Redd Herring
15:24 Jun 27, 2021

Hi Daniel, I have a new Book of Choices story: * The Bartender by Redd Herring (a Book of Choices / Crossroads Cantina Story) - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/100/submissions/74292/

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:36 Jun 27, 2021

That sounds great, I can't wait to check that out tonight! :)

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Charlie Murphy
03:13 Jun 16, 2021

Awesome story! It's like a blending of Stephen King and R.L. Stine. Two of my favorite authors!

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Daniel R. Hayes
05:01 Jun 16, 2021

Thank you so much, Charlie! I really appreciate that. Those are my favs too :) :)

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Ann Smith
19:43 Jun 13, 2021

This story kept me guessing. I had to continue reading as I needed to know what happened. This is the mark of a good story.

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Daniel R. Hayes
22:23 Jun 13, 2021

Hi Ann, thank you so much for the wonderful comment!! I'm so glad you liked it :) I hope to read your story later tonight ;) :)

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07:04 Jun 10, 2021

"Twisty and shiny. The serpent path lies. Thrust quickly for thy future awaits." Genius. Utterly genius. I'm so glad that I'm able to read stories from amazing writers like you. I feel so blessed. I really enjoyed that adventure/ Egyptian feel in this story. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Is it mean of me to say that I think Arby and William deserved their fates ? Scorn me if you will, but can help thinking that. Great take on the prompt. An exciting take on The book of choices series. I'm glad you decided to continue it with this chapter. Si...

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:27 Jun 10, 2021

I don't think it's mean that you feel that way about the characters. A hidden theme about greed being evil and wrong was on my mind when I wrote both characters. I knew right away that they were not going to make it. If fact, the book was the main character in my eyes... lol :)

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19:11 Jun 10, 2021

Yup, the real star was the book all along...

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Redd Herring
17:54 Jun 11, 2021

I love that comment. When Daniel and I were discussing how this series might play out, I mentioned that the focus was more the book than the people. Glad that came out ( I knew it would with Daniel writing it!) You can jump in too if you have an idea for the book. Info is on my bio on how to title and setup. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/redd-herring/

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20:58 Jun 11, 2021

Thanks!

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Jon R. Miller
10:38 Jun 09, 2021

This was a really engrossing tale and I am left wanting to learn more about what happens to the book and the people who assist it to their detriment. You have a wonderful way of depicting action. It's really exciting to read. I can't wait for more.

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Redd Herring
15:41 Jun 09, 2021

Jon, Here are a couple more to read in this series: The Book of Choices - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/91/submissions/64590/ The Book of Choices on the Crossroads Cantina Podcast (the ending gives you some more insight that is not in the story) - https://crossroadscantina.captivate.fm/episode/the-book-of-choices Intersection (A Book of Choices story) - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/96/submissions/70357/ UMBRA (companion story to The Book of Choices, you learn how when you listen t...

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:45 Jun 09, 2021

Hi Jon, Thanks for the wonderful comments. This story was based on the original idea from Redd Herring. I wrote this story to add a chapter in The Book of Choices Universe. I left the story open so that other writers can add their own stories to this very creative idea. Thanks again, I really appreciate it :) :)

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Gemma Mc Donald
00:19 Jun 09, 2021

This was really good! Your phrasing made it really easy to see what was happening, and I loved your use of similies. It was very smooth to read, and I was shocked when the boy was killed! The ending about the book running away was quite interesting too. Great writing!

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Redd Herring
18:01 Jun 11, 2021

I thought the boy was going to be saved. But I think the way Daniel did it was best. Both of those guys deserved their fate. You can jump in too if you have an idea for the book. Info is on my bio on how to title and setup. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/redd-herring/

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Daniel R. Hayes
01:28 Jun 09, 2021

Thank you so much Gemma, I'm so glad you liked the story! It's comments like these that make writing these stories worth it! Thanks a million :) :)

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Gemma Mc Donald
03:09 Jun 09, 2021

🙏🏻

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Blue Green
17:31 Jun 08, 2021

Great story! Definitely an Indiana Jones flavour, and also reminds me of those classic SF pulp stories where the guy goes back to Egypt in a time machine, which ends up getting buried with the Pharaoh so he has to try and dig it out :-)

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Redd Herring
17:58 Jun 11, 2021

Yea Blue, I was feeling that same Indiana Jones thing. I loved it! I was waiting for something to pop up or some monster to come out of the water. You can jump in too if you have an idea for the book. Info is on my bio on how to title and setup. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/redd-herring/

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Blue Green
19:46 Jun 11, 2021

Thanks, I'll have a look :-)

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Daniel R. Hayes
17:40 Jun 08, 2021

Thank you so much, B.G. I'm so glad you liked it. I love this type of setting, and I always wanted to include it in one of my stories :) I really appreciate the fantastic comments!!

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Kelly Dennison
15:00 Jun 07, 2021

Hi Daniel, As usual, it's a story full of exciting action! Super cool idea and very clever execution. I like that in this story I'm not actually rooting for either of the characters. I felt like as Willam's 'window of opportunity' grew, so did his own greed! Strange that you're almost relieved the book got away? Wonder what that says about me! I hope you continue this in some way. I'd be delighted to hear about the stranger in the canoe...like...who? how?? Super intriguing. Loved it! :)

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Redd Herring
18:00 Jun 11, 2021

I agree Kelly. I hope Daniel shows us what happens along that arc as well. You can jump in too if you have an idea for the book. Info is on my bio on how to title and setup. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/redd-herring/

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:25 Jun 07, 2021

Hi Kelly!! This story was based on Redd Herring's original Book of Choices idea, and this is my added chapter to that Universe :) I'm so glad that you liked it, and you understood that both characters were bad dudes at heart. I left the ending open to show how the book could end up in someone else's hands ;) I wrote it thinking that the book used both of them to escape into the real world. Almost like an origin story for the book. So I guess the book is the main character here... lol :) I really appreciate these wonderful comments! ...

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Kelly Dennison
16:08 Jun 07, 2021

Ahh, yes I can see that!!! Super cool, Daniel!

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Daniel R. Hayes
16:12 Jun 07, 2021

😊 😊

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Redd Herring
11:21 Jun 07, 2021

Daniel, is this OK to post here? I would love for any of you to write your own "Book of Choices" story. The book gets around, that's for sure. Nothing about the stories is linear or necessarily connected, so time and reference to other characters or stories does not mess up any time lines. You can do what you want with it. Things could happen before this, after this, or on a timeline that coincides with this. All I ask is that you do this: *Can you title your story like this: TITLE (A "Book of Choices" Story) * Would you mind putting this ...

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:27 Jun 07, 2021

Hi Redd, it's absolutely fine! :)

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Redd Herring
11:15 Jun 07, 2021

Daniel - I love it! Twisty and Shiny are your plot twists at the end!! And... I think I used to work for Arby, or maybe his brother! You connected to the other stories in an awesome way, the book description was spot on, and you left an opening for someone (or you) to continue with this new person. I am getting an Indiana Jones feel and I think maybe it's the location and a relic being involved. Man, you took the book to a new level with what it did!

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Daniel R. Hayes
15:35 Jun 07, 2021

Thanks Redd!! I'm so glad you liked it, and I think its really cool that you're trying to get other writers involved in an original idea that you created. I looked at this as kind of an origin story of sorts. But I left it open for someone to write further back (how did the book end up buried in the sand?) and of course this story can continue right after or really whenever :) I hope other writers will add a chapter in this Universe!!! :)

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Daniel R. Hayes
01:05 Jun 07, 2021

Author's Note: This story is a part of (The Book of Choices Universe) that Redd Herring started. I thought it was a cool idea, and I wanted to add a chapter to this series. Thus, this story was born, and I hope you all like it! As always, thank you for reading!!! 😊 "Based on the original Book of Choices story by Redd Herring - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/91/submissions/64590/"

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Redd Herring
16:58 Jul 04, 2021

Hey Daniel - new one in The Book of Choices world Redemption by Redd Herring - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/101/submissions/75429/

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