Submitted into Contest #219 in response to: Set your story in a type of prison cell.... view prompt


Sad Teens & Young Adult Creative Nonfiction

tw/slight imagery of sh

The bell rings and you head to your uncle’s black Subaru. You had always wondered why he chose black, perhaps to appear suave and younger than he really was.

“So kiddo, how was school?” He asks promptly, same as he always does. 

“Fine.” You say curtly, as you always do. 

At this point, you are unsure of whether he asks that question because he genuinely cares or merely to satisfy some personal quota. 

He is silent the rest of the way, fingers thrumming against the steering wheel to the beat of whatever song is playing on the radio–this time it's “Somebody That I Used to Know”. He never asks you what music you want to play, and you are fine with this. You got your music taste from her anyway, and anything related to her is taboo. 

When he stops in front of the county prison, you swiftly bid him farewell and remind him to pick you up no later than an hour from now. You hate the waiting room in the prison, how it reeks of grief and fear, how the paint peels off the corners of the chairs, how the mold festering in the corners seems to spread by the second. 

Entering through the visitor entrance with your ID in hand you are greeted with the same sad smile from the lady at the front desk. 

“Hang in there doll.” She says.

“Thanks.” You reply. 

You sit down in the cold plastic chair all the way in the back of the room, the other visitors spread scarcely throughout the room. You reckon you should consider yourself lucky for being able to meet with her at a time when not many other people are here, you’d hate to be stuck next to a tall man who reeks of cigarette smoke again. 

As you sit there and anxiously pick at the skin of your palm, pinching it so that blood rushes to the white areas and color blossoms on your pale skin, you notice the shuffle of orange beyond the plastic screen. 

You pick up your telephone. 

She picks up her telephone. 

You half expect her to point out the new scabs littering your arms, half expect her to ask if someone is hurting you or if you are hurting yourself. 

But she doesn’t ask, so you don’t explain yourself. 

“Where did we leave off?” She asks instead, her hoarse voice rasping through the telephone in your hand. It's a bit drier than you remember, you chalk it up to the way the air suddenly turned crisp with autumn, how she probably alternates between inhaling cigarette fumes and cold, sharp air all day.

Remembering her question, you rack your brain before recalling that you left off at the part where the main character makes a deal with the devil. 

“Jingyu wanted to return to his companions.” You start.

“Ah yes, I remember.” She replies. 

“So he sacrifices his memories, and for this part, I’m not sure if I want to make him come back in a different form or if I want him to come back with no powers at all.” 

“Why not do both?” She asks. 

You pause, contemplating. Having the main character come back to life both with a different look and the need to relearn all the magic that he lost would be interesting, but it would drag out the story far longer than you intended to make it. 

You tell her this, that her suggestion would just drag out the plot. 

She hums, a slight indent forming on her right cheek. It's a telltale sign that she’s chewing the inner part of her mouth, which means that she’s holding something back. 

“I see.” She finally says. “So what will you do?” 

“I think I’ll have Jingyu come back to his companions, but he would have forgotten everything. So his companions will have to pretend that they don’t know who he is as he regains his powers. Then at the end, Jingyu will face the devil once more and will finally be able to beat him.”

She waits a few moments to see whether or not you will add anything else before opening her mouth. “What about the memories Jingyu had before making the first deal?” 

“I want him to remember at the end. I also think I want him to fall in love with the same girl again. I think readers will enjoy a good true-love subplot.” 

She smiles knowingly, and perhaps this is a fair reaction. She was an author too, she’s the one who gave you your love for writing. 

“Then you should be careful to not make it forced, no one enjoys a love that doesn’t have nuance.” 

Her comment was also a fair reaction, but for some reason, it struck a nerve. Though you usually don’t bring him up, or anything other than your novel for that matter, you can’t help the retort that pours out of your mouth and lunges to attack her. 

“What, nuanced like you and dad?” You mutter.

A flicker of shock glistens behind those ever-unmoving brown eyes, the brown that you used to feel enveloped you in warmth and love but now shone no brighter than the void within your own soul. 

“If you want to talk about your dad…” She trails off, eyes holding your gaze in a lock. 

“I don’t. Ignore that last comment.” You snap. Maybe a few months ago you would’ve tried to talk to her about him. Tried to ask her where it all went wrong, what you did wrong. But now all you can bear to talk to her about is your novel, so that’s all you’ve spoken about with her for these last few visits. 

“Ok, tell me more about the devil.” She says, her voice slightly wavering. 

You expect guilt to blossom in your chest like the red currently covering your tightly squeezed palms, blood beading where your nails dig into skin. However, there is nothing in the hollow cavity of your heart. 

You hold on to your dreams of being a writer like a child afraid to lose her way. Perhaps that’s all you really are when you are in front of her–just a child, a child that she can no longer hold or guide. The only support she can possibly give you is that of a fellow author, that’s the only support she has the right to give you any more. 

So you look back up, open your mouth, and let your manuscript pour out.

And she sits quietly and listens. Listens while uncertain if you will continue to visit her once your novel is finished. Listens while fighting back the urge to shatter the plexiglass and kiss away your scars. Listens while you unknowingly pour out your deepest desires in the form of a novel, desires that she can only correct with a red pen.

Red like the flowing blood that connects you, and the spilled blood that separated you. 

October 13, 2023 22:13

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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