Contest #163 shortlist ⭐️

33 comments

Coming of Age Fantasy Fiction

Once upon a time there lived a girl made out of paper. She had puzzled her village when she was born, but over time they realised she was just like any other child, apart from one curious quirk. 

Paper Girl did not hold a memory, and she would forget everything every morning she woke up. 

To remedy this, Paper Girl’s mother lovingly painted colourful patterns on her daughter. She would explain what each pattern meant, and every morning when Paper Girl awoke, confused and scared, she would look at her colourful patterns and remember everything. 

Before long, Paper Girl was covered in intricate patterns, swirling and flowing all over her body. 

When Paper Girl turned 16, she learned a terrible secret. Her village was captive to a beast called the Mowz- a terrible monster that spread sickness and darkness wherever it went. 

It transpired that every full moon, one adult from the village was being sacrificed to the Mowz, to prevent it from devouring the whole village in a heartbeat. 

Paper Girl was furious when she discovered this, and confronted her mother. With trembling hands, her mother told her she had been chosen as the next sacrifice, and had to leave Paper Girl forever. 

That night, PaperGirl drew a single red dot on her right hand, to remind her of what her mother had told her. 

The next day, PaperGirl slipped out before sunrise and set off to find the Mowz herself. It was her heart's desire to save her mother and free her village from this terrible curse.

Her journey took her along many perilous paths, through icy mountains and sweltering abandoned mines. 

Whenever the cold was too vicious, or the heat too suffocating, PaperGirl fixed her gaze on the red dot on her hand and continued with a steely look on her wrinkled paper face. 

Before long, she found the Mowz’s lair, and slipped inside. Her heart hammered against her paper chest, and her breathing was ragged. With shaking knees but shoulders pinned back, she entered the Mowz's inner-sanctum.

There, she confronted the beast and offered to trade places with her mother. The beast drummed its fingers, with a pinky larger than all the mountains PaperGirl had just climbed. 

It deliberated and then a sly grin spread across its face. The Mowz promised it would spare Paper Girl's mother, but only if it was allowed to take another soul instead.

This shocked Paper Girl, who immediately declined, yelling at the Mowz for thinking she would put someone else in such danger.

The Mowz growled and lunged at Paper Girl, who dodged out of the way with the agility of a girl who could dance on the wind, and taking a moment to steady herself, she stiffened her fingers and leapt at the Mowz, slapping it straight across the snout.

Being made of paper, this gave her Mowz an almighty paper cut, and it shrieked in annoyance as Paper Girl bounced on the balls of her feet with a determined frown on her face.

The Mowz snarled at Paper Girl’s courage, and vomited darkness, engulfing her in a gloopy, black tar. He then scooped her up and ate her with a deafening roar. 

Paper Girl landed in the Mowz’s belly and desperately tried to wipe the thick darkness from her, but it was to no avail- she was ruined. 

Knowing the full moon was approaching, PaperGirl tried desperately to crawl up the Mowz’s throat to freedom. But every time she tried, another gushing river of thick darkness drenched her, sending her tumbling back down again. 

Exhausted, Paper Girl passed out, and woke up the next day, stained in the Mowz’s thick gloop. Without her colourful patterns, she remembered nothing. 

She became confused and fearful, whimpering quietly to herself as she gazed around her terrible prison, rocking forwards and backwards slowly as she hugged her trembling knees. 

However, Paper Girl did know she was trapped somewhere terrible, and she started clawing desperately at the walls of the Mowz’s stomach. Suddenly, something caught her eye- a red dot on her right hand, barely visible amongst the smattering of darkness. 

She gasped and let out an anguished scream- she had failed her mother. 

It was at that moment Paper Girl did something she’d never done before. She sat down and cried. Uneven sobs at first, but eventually a crescendo of grief overtook her and she wept openly, shaking uncontrollably. 

Suddenly, a truly amazing thing happened. Paper Girl’s tears started washing away the darkness covering her, the thick, sticky tar melting away in a small puddle at her feet. 

After a while, Paper Girl was as good as new, and she stared at herself in disbelief. 

She frowned and all her memories started flooding back. Her mother, all the villagers who adored and protected her, the sunset every night by her window, the first spiral pattern her mother had carefully drawn on her palm. 

As her tears came into contact with her patterns, they started glowing brightly, the reds, greens and yellows all illuminating her prison with a blinding light, polishing her memories to perfection. 

Paper Girl raised her hand and realised she was glowing brighter by the second. She heard a roar and noticed the walls of the Mowz’s stomach were festering and bubbling. 

The light from her tear-drenched memories were burning it alive from the inside. 

Suddenly, the Mowz screamed in primal rage and exploded with a soul-splintering BANG. 

Paper Girl stood there, glowing as defiantly as ever, the remains of the once feared Mowz around her feet, puddles of darkness scattered around for miles. 

Paper Girl made her way home, her mother running to greet her with tears streaming down her face. Everyone in the village was shocked that someone so wafer-thin and fragile had shown such resolute courage. 

From that day on, nothing evil ever ventured near the village, and Paper Girl realised there is strength to be found in being vulnerable, and that no darkness can ever defeat memories forged within the heart.

September 15, 2022 02:49

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33 comments

Rosie Loosemore
21:59 Apr 16, 2023

You storytelling and imagery would translate beautifully to stop motion/animation. I hope things are going well with your publishing! :)

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Hamzah Malik
16:27 Apr 21, 2023

Ohh I would LOVE to have these made into stop motion! I'm nearly finished with The Very Bizarre, I'll send you a copy once it's released :)

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14:00 Mar 19, 2023

A wild imagination is such a beautiful thing. This is only the 3rd story I've read from you and I love each of them. From the way that you point out gems (aka lessons) that can be carried through life, it is evident you have mastered harnessing the wildness of that imagination without restraint. Diving into uncharted depths while putting a spark out in the world has put a smile on my face. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

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Hamzah Malik
17:44 Mar 20, 2023

Hi Sheri, thank you so much for your wonderful feedback! I'm thrilled you enjoyed Paper Girl, it was a lot of fun to write. I'm releasing a book soon of 30 short stories like this called The Very Bizarre...would you be interested in receiving a copy?

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14:26 Mar 23, 2023

Congratulations on the new book release, Hamzah. :) I would love a copy and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work. Just curious, is it illustrated by any chance?

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Hamzah Malik
01:57 Mar 25, 2023

Sounds great! Drop me an email with your address and I’ll have one sent over when it’s published! And it isn’t, although I’d love to eventually have illustrations for each story!

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Amanda Lieser
04:32 Sep 30, 2022

Hi Hamzah! Congratulations! I adored this story. Especially, that detail about the paper cut. This was so beautifully told. I also really enjoyed the clear message at the end. Nice job!

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Hamzah Malik
05:16 Oct 01, 2022

Thank you Amanda! I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, and really appreciate your kind words :)

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Story Time
16:48 Sep 28, 2022

I really enjoy folklore and this was such a great tale in the classic spirit with all the darkness I love. Bravo.

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Hamzah Malik
05:15 Oct 01, 2022

Thank you Kevin! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I’m really keen on merging folklore and dark fantasy. :)

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07:42 Sep 25, 2022

This is so good. As Graham mentioned this should be published as an illustrated childrens book. Even as an adult, I found the details very unique and the action gripping with your quick and clear storytelling. Good work!

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Hamzah Malik
01:13 Sep 26, 2022

Thanks so much for your feedback Scott! You guys are totally right, I'm going to try and find an illustrator on Reedsy Marketplace and get the ball rolling. I've compiled around 30 stories into a new book of dark fairy tales, I'll let you know when it's all released! :)

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Kelly Sibley
00:07 Sep 24, 2022

I'm so glad you got short-listed!!! It really deserves to be further developed. Find yourself an illustrator and go fo it!

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Hamzah Malik
00:53 Sep 26, 2022

Thank you Kelly! The feedback has been so wonderful, I'm going to go on Reedsy and find someone to illustrate the entire collection of 30 stories, I'll keep you posted! :)

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Kelly Sibley
09:50 Sep 26, 2022

I was just thinking... When you do get your book all organised with pictures. Record you reading it, and then put it on Youtube. Make sure to put one of the hashtags as 'hero narrative'. Lots of teachers look for videos of books that fall into the narrative structures. Also, a good tag would be 'talk4writing' which is an English writing program used by a lot of schools. Put a link at the bottom of your video where you are going to sell your book, so people can then buy it. You could always send a copy to Pie Corbett who is the creator of Tal...

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Hamzah Malik
18:04 Sep 26, 2022

Wow Kelly, this is SUCH an amazing idea! It would be so cool to have some images or even a short video on YouTube that gets people interested. I'll definitely send a copy to Pie Corbett too. Would you be open to a quick chat to talk about all of this? It would help massively, happy to return the favour too :)

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Kelly Sibley
00:50 Sep 27, 2022

Sure, you can message me at SAM @SAMartmedia1 on twitter. :)

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Hamzah Malik
18:01 Sep 27, 2022

Perfect, thanks!

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Tommy Goround
21:19 Sep 23, 2022

New archetype? Clapping

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Hamzah Malik
00:52 Sep 26, 2022

Thank you Tommy!

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Tommy Goround
00:57 Sep 26, 2022

I really had fun reading this after I read three of your old stories.

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Hamzah Malik
18:01 Sep 26, 2022

Made my day, really motivates me to release the book! :)

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Tommy Goround
19:55 Sep 26, 2022

Yep. I'd spend 15 bucks on your stories. You need to give me about 20 stories though. I would spend a few more dollars if it had excellent illustrations or a hardcover.

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Hamzah Malik
05:17 Oct 01, 2022

I have a collection of 30 ready to go, just finding an illustrator to do them justice now! Just out of interest, did you have a favourite from the ones you read?

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Tommy Goround
11:00 Oct 01, 2022

I didn't like mid section of paper girl until I could trust that you would keep it up to completion. She's the best. No archetype maker..."little Jackie paper loves that rascal puff" #2Peanut boy then #3mango girl. Can't pronounce the knight with a spear.

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Hamzah Malik
18:58 Oct 01, 2022

Thanks Tommy, that’s great feedback. Peanut Boy had some strong feedback. I think the Knight needs renaming, it is quite archaic sounding!

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Graham Kinross
12:29 Sep 21, 2022

You should find an illustrator who can do these stories of yours justice. They would look beautiful in watercolour I think. My only suggestion is to remove the word suddenly. Just saying what happens is sudden. I like the memory device, reminds me of Memento. Have you seen it? When the beast exploded I pictured a balloon made of meat. Great story Hamzah.

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Hamzah Malik
21:17 Sep 21, 2022

Thanks Graham! I think they’d look great in watercolour. And good suggestion, that makes complete sense. Yeah, I love Memento, one of Nolan’s best! The balloon of meat is brilliantly visceral. I appreciate your support, thank you for taking the time out to read my work.

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Graham Kinross
23:32 Sep 21, 2022

I always like your stories. They would make a great book, preferably with some beautiful illustrations. I can definitely see them on a book shelf.

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Kelly Sibley
10:38 Sep 20, 2022

I absolutely loved this and it would make a wonderful hero narrative for children. A beginning idea for a children's book? Well done!

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Hamzah Malik
21:46 Sep 20, 2022

Thank you Kelly! For sure, Paper Girl will feature in The Very Bizarre (a collection, hopefully out soon) with a short solo book planned. Thank you for the feedback, it made my day :)

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