Contest #183 shortlist ⭐️

32 comments

Fantasy Fiction Sad

At the edge of a dying forest stood Death, a shadow, tall and gray, mysterious and ominous. The forest had recently been the victim of fire, which ravaged its plant and animal life. Death moved along slowly, touching trees as he went, causing them to lose their remaining leaves and fall to ashes. He came across a fallen sparrow whose feathers had been scorched by the flames. Bending down gently, Death whispered, “Come with me and be free.” 

The little sparrow raised its weary head, looked up at him and sang a weak song, as it recognized this amorphous entity. 

“Death, you came for me. Please, help me fly away again.”

At this request, Death touched the bird’s broken body, and its spirit lifted with a flourish, rising quickly into the sky. Death watched until it disappeared from his sight. He looked around at the work left to be done, and the souls of the flora and fauna yet to be extracted from the horrific scene. As he surveyed the damage, a glint of color skipped through his peripheral vision, causing him to turn and look out over the field which met the forest. He witnessed a living wind of vibrant energy pouring over the open area, magnificence gracing everything that she touched.

“She’s beautiful,” Death muttered to himself as he watched Life skillfully flutter across the expanse, wildflowers spreading in her wake. “She brings so much joy, and souls delight in her creation. She is the essence of happiness. I wish I could be the bearer of as much delight.”

Suddenly, she stopped, and Death felt her gaze upon him. Unable to face the very mother of existence, he hurriedly made his way through the fallen trees and smoking stumps. He hid himself easily, blending in with the charcoal and ash. 

Life floated whimsically to the edge of the forest and gingerly made her way past its threshold, sprouts of new trees budding under her form. She noticed the sparrow, and said quietly to herself, “Death has been here.”

Death felt a shock wave of emotions at the sound of her saying his name, simultaneously feeling guilt, adoration, humiliation, and excitement. 

“I have always admired his work,” she continued, as she examined the sparrow. “I can breathe souls into being, but I cannot take away their suffering as he can. He is truly a master at his craft.”

Shocked but still hidden, Death soaked in her praise and struggled to process it, as he rarely was on the receiving end of kind words. He worked up the courage and finally emerged from his hiding place, only to find that Life was already gone. 


*****


Continuing his duties, Death found himself in a hospital room at the bedside of a very old man. The man’s family held vigil, sharing familiar stories about his youth as they reminisced, laughed, and cried. Death observed the man, and watched as his soul moved toward the surface, preparing to exit his body. 

“I am ready when you are,” Death gently called to the man. 

The man’s body moaned lightly, but the man’s soul spoke clearly. “Not quite yet. A few minutes more.”

Death acquiesced and allowed the man some privacy for his last moments of living. Even Death recognized when a moment was meant for just family. As he wandered the halls, he was drawn to the sound of a woman crying out in pain. 

He floated into a room where a woman was giving birth. He was intrigued by this sight, as he had never been present when a new soul made its way into the world. He watched as the woman struggled, and the nurses gave her encouragement and guidance.

But as he drew closer, the mood began to shift among the hospital staff. “Blood pressure is dropping! What’s going on? We’re losing the baby! Get the doctor in here now!”

Death’s heart dropped as what had been so incredible sharply morphed into something so terrifying. A firm wind flew past him, and Life made her way to the side of the mother, placing her presence upon her stomach. 

“You must go! You can’t be here!” Life pleaded to Death. “Please, leave now! This isn’t your place!”

Flustered and ashamed, Death exited quickly without saying a word. He stood outside of the room, watching as Life enveloped the mother, her colors pulsing in rhythm with the mother’s heart.

“She’s stabilizing, vitals are returning to normal. It’s a miracle!” one nurse cried out. 

Death floated away, the sounds of newborn life fading behind him. Life was correct: he had no place there. He returned to the room of the dying old man to complete his duties. When he returned, the old man bade him closer.

“I am ready now,” he said as his soul reached out toward Death. “I am tired of hurting. Please, let’s go.”

Death approached the old man and touched his shoulder. The man’s spirit rose out of his body and looked around at his family. He smiled at Death and began to ascend up and out of the room, when he suddenly halted. His spirit fell back down to his body, and he shot a frightened glance at Death with confusion and anguish.

Death looked up to see Life in the doorway. “I-I came to apologize,” she said hesitantly, “I was too harsh toward you earlier, and-”

“You must go!” Death begged. “This man’s soul must pass on, or he will suffer! Your presence is holding him here! Please, leave! You cannot be here!”

Life quickly backpedaled and disappeared from sight. A pang of sorrow struck Death’s heart, but he focused on the man, who needed his help. Once more, he touched the old man, who was then freed from his body. Without hesitation, he flew up and out as Death looked on, and his family wept over his body. 


*****


“It’s time to go,” Death bade to a deer that had been hit by a car. He touched its shoulder, and its soul bounded forth, leaping upward, no longer tethered to its earthly form. People cluttered the scene, tending to the family whose car struck the deer. Death carefully avoided them, painfully aware of the events at the hospital earlier that day. 

He meandered away, his heart heavy with grief over his lost chance at connecting with Life. He would never be able to stand blissfully in her abundance, or be a part of her wonderment. As he drifted in thought, he looked down to see two dandelions pushing through a crack in the pavement. A familiar voice called out from across the road.“Those flowers are my favorite!” Life exclaimed with enthusiasm. “Because even in their death, they are adored, as their seeds alight into the air.”

Death’s heart lifted slightly and he soaked in her voice. “They are wondrous,” he managed to force out of his mouth. “You…you are wondrous.”

Life laughed, and fireflies shone brightly in the nearby trees, echoing her light. “And so are you! We are two sides of the same coin, you and I.”

They stayed in that moment, two forces of nature, enamored with each other’s presence. Finally, Life shouted, “I admire your work!”

“And I yours!” Death shouted back.

And with that, they parted ways. Death no longer felt shame as he thought about what Life had said. He realized that just as with the dandelions, there is incredible wonder in the dance he shared with his counterpart, and his part of the dance was just as beautiful as hers. 


February 01, 2023 06:03

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32 comments

Victoria Shkane
01:59 Feb 12, 2023

What wonderful imagery! Beautifully crafted story about the necessary roles that both life and death play on earth. I love the take on the prompt - how their brief encounter gives death an appreciation for not only life's role, but also his own. Congrats on the short list!

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Nona Yobis
02:53 Feb 12, 2023

Thank you so much!

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Shahzad Ahmad
09:03 Jul 19, 2023

Nona by personifying death and life you have brought forth their character and modus operandi. The emotional content of the story is overwhelming and the words sprout so naturally. An exceptional story. Keep writing.

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Mary Bendickson
18:22 Apr 12, 2023

Been enjoying your stories so went back to your first. And, wow, shortlisted immediately and well deserved. You obviously have been writing for a while. I am brand new and the difference is so clear. Well done and congrats.

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Nona Yobis
04:49 Apr 13, 2023

Thank you! You are so uplifting, it gives me confidence to know that someone is reading my work and connecting with it. That's 99% of why any writer writes, I suppose! I wrote a lot back in high school, and always enjoyed chances to write in undergrad and graduate school, but other than a couple of "fever dream" novels that I work on for a month, then put down for 2 years, I haven't explored creative writing in a long time. It's always stayed within my heart, though, and it was time to let it back out!

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Mary Bendickson
05:04 Apr 13, 2023

Lucky for us. Let your light shine!

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Russell Susko
01:50 Mar 14, 2023

Nice opening scene. Interesting idea, describing death in a positive way as the removal of suffering.

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Nona Yobis
02:17 Mar 14, 2023

Thank you! Yes, part of my aim was to explore ways in which death is actually welcome, and a good thing.

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Graham Kinross
07:54 Feb 21, 2023

Congratulations on being shortlisted, Nona. Well deserved. Your descriptions are excellent.

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Nona Yobis
16:51 Feb 21, 2023

Thank you!

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Graham Kinross
22:18 Feb 21, 2023

You’re welcome.

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Amanda Lieser
19:14 Feb 16, 2023

Hi Nona! Congratulations on the shortlist! This was a thrilling read. I was entranced by the way these characters waltzed together and I loved the way you juxtaposed the two hospital rooms. I also really admired the way both of these forces have admiration for the other one, but that you gave them a beautiful happy ending. It was an ending worthy of the phrase: the grass ain’t always greener on the other side. Nice job!

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Nona Yobis
02:45 Feb 17, 2023

Thank you! I am so glad that you enjoyed it. I appreciate your comment!

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Story Time
17:16 Feb 15, 2023

Congratulations on the shortlist. I thought the voice behind the piece was very strong, and I enjoyed the way you humanized mythic figures.

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Nona Yobis
05:58 Feb 16, 2023

Thank you! I am glad it resonated with you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
14:12 Feb 12, 2023

Fine work Nona. Sometimes, I compare something like this I God and Satan haggling Job in the Bible. Congrats.

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Nona Yobis
17:04 Feb 15, 2023

Thank you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:57 Feb 18, 2023

Welcome.

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Viga Boland
04:13 Feb 12, 2023

Congratulations on being shortlisted with your first story. WOW…that’s amazing. What an achievement. Hope you win. I just submitted my first short story for current contest. Still waiting for a judge to read it LOL. Adding you to those whom I follow. With a start like this, you’re on the way and how!

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Nona Yobis
04:42 Feb 12, 2023

Thank you! I appreciate your kind words. I will be sure to check out your submission, as well! Good luck with the judges!!!

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Michał Przywara
23:45 Feb 08, 2023

This is a great take on the prompt. Initially it reminded me a bit of Hades and Persephone, but here the relationship is much more amicable and equal. Two sides of the same coin is a good take, for life and death really does form a cycle, doesn't it? I like that both Death and Life had similar thoughts, about the grass being greener on the other side, and hoe each of them blundered into the other's domain. Critique-wise, I think the voice was good. It starts off with Death kind of morose, but steadily that changes to mutual appreciation. ...

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Nona Yobis
04:08 Feb 09, 2023

I can see the undertones of Hades and Persephone in there, and although it was not purposeful, there are definitely parallels present! Thank you for the feedback!

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Michał Przywara
22:39 Feb 10, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist!

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Nona Yobis
22:45 Feb 10, 2023

Thanks! :)

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Rebecca Miles
20:17 Feb 07, 2023

I've read a few stories on the platform where death is personified but none as beautiful as yours. The message is just as exquisite; the dance of life and death, memorably captured in your dandelion image. Life envies deaty, death envies life and each need to realise there is a time for each. I liked the rhythm: sometimes death retreated, sometimes life; each scene carried the idea so well as you crafted it so visually and symbolically. There were many lovely and moving sections in this: Life as wind, as colour; Death's longing for her appr...

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Nona Yobis
21:23 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you so much for your kind words! It's always difficult to tell if a story is going to mean a much to others as it does to you. I'm so glad it was able to impact you in a positive way!

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Adedayo Omole
13:58 Feb 06, 2023

This is a mastercraft!

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Nona Yobis
15:56 Feb 06, 2023

Thank you so much!

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Wendy Kaminski
00:58 Feb 06, 2023

LOVED this, Nona! What a delightful tale. I liked the death-as-an-angsty-teen vibe I got when they first met in the forest. So many great lines in this, like “I can breathe souls into being, but I cannot take away their suffering as he can. He is truly a master at his craft.” and its inverse. This was masterfully crafted, and in the end, the admiration from afar was the perfect touch. Welcome to Reedsy! :)

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Nona Yobis
05:12 Feb 06, 2023

Thank you so much, Wendy! I really appreciate your supportive comment. I feel very welcomed!

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Wendy Kaminski
16:19 Feb 10, 2023

Well-deserved short listing - congratulations! :)

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Nona Yobis
17:49 Feb 10, 2023

Thank you!!! :) It made my day for sure!

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