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Fantasy Drama Speculative

The shards of glass glint, ragged daggers on the bedroom floor, as the voices taunting dirty Chalkers echo on the warm breeze flowing through the shattered window. Yasmine tries to calm her racing heart as she slides out of bed and sidles along the wall until she reaches the blue, threadbare curtains fluttering in the wind. Poking a pale finger between the wall and curtain, she lifts the fabric just enough to scan the street. No sound, no movement.


“What was that noise, Mama?”


She turns to see Eyla, barefoot in her nightgown, walking towards her.


“Stay where you are.”


“There’s a note, on the brick,” she says, pointing.


“I see it. Get dressed, quickly.”


“Where are we going?”


“I don’t know. But we need to be ready to hide, just in case.”


Yasmine reaches for the brick, wincing as a piece of glass lodges in her foot. She limps to the bed, brick in one hand, leaving a speckled trail of milky blood. She pulls the shard out quickly, covering the wound with a pillowcase. The purple brick is wrapped with twine. Trapped beneath the string, a piece of yellowed paper. She frees it and unfolds it.


Ur not welcome here

Dirty Chalker Trash


She laughs, a hard brittle thing. Yasmine doesn’t want to be here either. She’d much prefer to be back in her cottage with the little garden, shaded by silver cherry and willow trees, the chimes blowing in the breeze, making snow globes with Eyla. She’d nearly dropped the globe she was holding, the one with a miniature replica of their cottage and family, when the Rangers broke down the door. The crack of splintering wood froze her for precious seconds, before she pocketed it, wrapped Eyla in her arms and waited.


Who is living in her home now, she wonders? Probably some Morado folk. She imagines their purple fingers wrapping around the silver rope of Eyla’s swing, their large feet crushing the Ice Lilies she’d planted in the Spring, their livid lips biting into the silver cherries which would be ripening right about now.


Yasmine was allowed to pack one small bag for Eyla and herself, clothes only, because everything else ‘would be provided for’ when they reached their ReAssignment Community. The RAC consisted of hastily constructed wooden shacks with transparent tarpaulin roofs, stuffed onto a muddy field that was hard and jagged when dry, slick and treacherous when wet, and surrounded by a barbed wire fence guarded by a few shaved-headed Rangers. A flimsy door and two mean windows with milky glass were the only portals into the three-room huts.


Yasmine checks her foot. It’s stopped bleeding. She dresses quickly and goes to Eyla’s room, joins her on the narrow bed, springs creaking under the thin mattress.


“What did the note say?” Eyla asks.


“They don’t like us. They want us to leave.”


“Why don’t they like us?”


Yasmine pauses, looking at the rescued snow globe perched on the wooden stool next to the bed. “Because they don’t know any better. They’re angry and scared.”


“Of what?”


“Of losing power,” Yasmine says, twisting a strand of Eyla’s platinum hair in her fingers. “There’s more Pale people now than ever before. In a decade, maybe, they’ll be more us than them, and the Morado folk don't like that."


“Are they a lot different than us? I mean other than their purple skin. I think they look like big grapes..."


A flicker of smile plays at Yasmine's lips. "Well, they are little bigger than most Pale folk, but other than that, we're the same. If you took blood from a Morado person and one of us, there'd be no difference, under a microscope. But we don't live under a microscope-"


An urgent tapping interrupts her. “Stay here,” she says, rising from the bed, and shutting Eyla’s door. When she reaches the front door, she frowns at the thin deadbolt, the only defence from it being blown open by a strong gust. 


“Yasmine? It’s Kriker,” a husky voice whispers through a crack.


She presses her forehead against the wall and unlocks the deadbolt, breathing out slowly, and opens the door.


Kriker’s silver hair reflects in the dim streetlights, casting shadows beneath his ice-blue eyes. “I heard the window breaking. You okay?”


“I...yes,” Yasmine says, glancing down briefly before meeting his gaze.


“There’s still room for you and Eyla,” he says, resting his hand on the doorframe. “We're leaving tonight to join the Up-Risers, in Tower Mountains. We could use your engineering skills, Yaz. We're going to sabotage their energy and communications networks first, so we can free our people from the camps, and then-"


"Don't say any more. Once they find out you've left, the Rangers will break down doors, interrogating everyone until they have answers. It's too dangerous. I don't want to put Eyla through that..."


"I understand. But if you don't take a stand soon, there's not much of a future for you or Eyla," he says, stepping away from the door. "If you change your mind, we'll be on the East side of the compound, in an hour.”


“Thanks. I, we...we're not ready, yet. Safe travels,” she says, as she closes the door and slides the deadbolt into place with shaking fingers.


Yasmine's feet feel like lead bricks, anchoring her to the floor. She thinks about the figurines in the snow globe, glued to the ground, slowly suffocating while the world swirls around them. The brand on her right hand pulses, the scarred tissue, shaped like a downward-facing triangle, reminding her of the last time someone asked her to leave home. That was when Arkin still breathed.


He was helping organise the December Rise-Up, and wanted his wife and daughter to join. There would be music, and food, he argued, and yes, people speaking out against the current regime. But it would be a peaceful protest. A family event. Yasmine declined. She worried it wasn’t safe to take Eyla. He’d shrugged and said, would you rather be safe, or free? 


She was watching the broadcast of the Rise-Up with Eyla when the heavily-armoured Rangers stormed into the rally, beating the Pales with clubs and fists, shocking them with metal rods, choking them with noxious gas. Yasmine was about to turn it off when she stopped still, her fingers numb and unresponsive. Arkin was on the screen. He was kneeling on the ground, hands tied behind his back. A large Ranger prodded him with a metal rod. Arkin’s body convulsed violently before he fell face-first onto the ground. The Ranger continued to prod him, his big foot clamped down on the back of his neck, forcing his face into the mud. That was the last time she saw Arkin.


The Rangers broke down the door of the cottage a few days later. She remembers the red-hot glow of the brand as they heated it over the fire. A bulbous purple hand clamped on top of Eyla’s head, a voice whispering, take a good long look, that’s what happens to traitors. Yasmine’s arm, stretched almost to breaking. Trying not to scream as the metal seared her skin, sizzling and sputtering. The smell of burning flesh.


“Was that Kriker?” Eyla asks, hovering in the doorway to her bedroom.


“Yes,” Yasmine says, turning to face her.


“Is he leaving?”


“Yes.”


“Oh,” Eyla responds, shaking the snow globe. “Can we say goodbye?”


***


Yasmine and Eyla walk in shadows to the East side of the compound, not talking, on the look-out for Rangers. They see Kriker, his back to them, as he loads a vehicle with an old woman in the passenger seat. They press their backs to the nearest hut, listening.


Then Yasmine takes Eyla’s hand and they walk toward him. They're about twenty feet away when Eyla stops. Yasmine turns toward her, annoyed, before she spots what Eyla is staring at. A Ranger urinates against the wall of a nearby hut. He struggles to zip up his trousers, swaying slightly. He looks up and sees them.


“Hey, what you doing out?” he slurs. “Looking for some company?” he says, as he strokes the front of trousers and makes crude thrusting movements with his hips.


Yasmine swallows hard. The Ranger hasn’t seen Kriker yet, maybe they can distract him long enough for him to get away. She’s about say something when Eyla places something cold and round in her hand.


The ranger stumbles toward them, leering at Yasmine, then Eyla. “Is it a two-for-one deal tonight?” he says, licking his lips.


He reaches for Yasmine’s neck, his breath warm against her face.


A loud crack. He falls to the ground, motionless.


Next to his head, a jagged half of the snow globe. Yasmine holds the other half in her hand, watching the figurine family slosh around for a few seconds, until they rest at the bottom. Then the cracked hemisphere slips from her fingers, falling to the ground with a soft thud.


“Let’s go,” she says. They run toward the vehicle.


“Glad you could make it,” Kriker says, opening the rear door to allow Yasmine and Eyla to slide in.


As he drives up the mountain, Yasmine rolls down the side window, breathing in the fresh air, watching the camp recede in the distance. She grabs Eyla's hand, smiles, and turns to watch the road ahead.





June 06, 2021 18:24

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36 comments

N K
03:53 Jun 16, 2021

This was a really great read! You created such an interesting world and to do so in just a few thousand words was really impressive. I really like how the conflict between the Pale and Morado people mirrors that which can be seen in the world - it was a really great way to bring in a commentary. The characters were really well-crafted and I'd love to read more!

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H L McQuaid
15:49 Jun 19, 2021

thank you! glad you liked it. Maybe there will be a sequel, ha.

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Ash Jarvis
20:19 Jun 09, 2021

This story has amazing world building, but more importantly it tackles what the best in speculative fiction does—viewing our world through the lens of another. As usual I’m late to the game and others have already helped you tweak this (you did a great job refining the snow globe), but I did see one thing that was slightly confusing. In the paragraph that begins “She was watching the broadcast of the Rise-Up with Eyla when the heavily-armoured Rangers stormed in…” I thought that meant they stormed into her home, not into where the Rise-Up m...

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H L McQuaid
11:29 Jun 10, 2021

Hi Ash, Thanks, I've fixed the slightly confusing sentence. I pictured Eyla as around 6 or 7, curious but serious (and yes, hardened by witnessing her father's death, her mother's torture). You know, when I first started on Reedsy, I didn't think I'd write fantasy, because of all the world-building required, so I sprinkled a few fantastical elements (like Mel) into realistic/contemporary settings. But then I had to write a fairy tale (for the screenwriting contest), and discovered I like imagining what other worlds might look like. Who ...

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Nina Chyll
09:14 Jun 09, 2021

I think what I enjoyed most about this story is how it uses concepts and imagery belonging to the very immediate world we live in to create a crystal clear fantasy story. There are so many different proper names, events and requisites here, yet they all come together without the need for any expository narrative. It just all explains itself through the plot, which is seamless and shows that you have a knack for worldbuilding. I have a couple of comments to make. I stumbled on the opening paragraph at a couple of points, although it might j...

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H L McQuaid
10:20 Jun 09, 2021

Nina, thank you so much for your detailed feedback. I re-did the first paragraph (hopefully it's clearer now), and worked the 'trapped in a snow globe' dialogue into the narration (still might be too heavy-handed, but I'll let it percolate for awhile). I didn't know what an acronymic verb was (I can guess from the base word), so I learned something new! As for the ending, David was commenting on an earlier draft, which I've since changed, based on his feedback. I'll consider adding some dialogue at the end, though i do like the symbology...

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Nina Chyll
11:23 Jun 09, 2021

I think the initial paragraph reads a lot clearer now! Oh I see, I didn't realise you'd changed the ending already. I like the last sentences precisely as they are; what I was suggesting was inserting something before the very end, just to address the issue of the murder, but perhaps leaving it as is may be the best solution.

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H L McQuaid
12:36 Jun 09, 2021

good, glad I'm going in the right direction. Maybe I should include "Draft 1" "Draft 2" at the top, but I revise so frequently, I'm not sure that would work. 😂 Also, I'm not sure the Ranger is dead...he might just be knocked out. But I could imagine Eyla asking about once they're in the car, so maybe there is rationale for a bit more dialogue.

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Nina Chyll
13:40 Jun 09, 2021

Oh right - I have no idea why I was imagining he was killed.

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H L McQuaid
13:55 Jun 09, 2021

I mean, he might be dead. Last we saw him, he wasn't moving...but he could just be knocked out/passed out.

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Zelda C. Thorne
10:05 Jun 08, 2021

Hi Heather, Really liked this story. I was drawn in straight away and wanted to keep reading at the end! The world felt real and the tension was brilliant. Can't think of any critique... Great writing. Well done!

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H L McQuaid
14:18 Jun 08, 2021

Thanks Rachel! I've been working on building tension. The genre for my last short screenplay was 'suspense', and I've been trying apply what I learned from writing that, to my stories here. Glad you wanted more. :)

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Claire Lindsey
19:57 Jun 07, 2021

Hi Heather, I really enjoyed the concept here, the fantastical elements, and the subversive twist of discrimination against people with pale skin. This reminds me of some of Le Guin’s short stories. Your world-building is super intriguing and descriptive. I like the details about the snow globes, and I wonder if you could pull in a metaphor or two to tie that theme in even more strongly (maybe comparing the camp to a snow globe, feeling trapped behind glass, shaken—I’m just spitballing haha) As far as renaming the Purples re David’s com...

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H L McQuaid
09:24 Jun 08, 2021

Thanks so much Claire! I've added a few more references to snow globes (one is an outright comparison to being stuck in the camp), and used Morado as the name of the purple-skinned folk. Glad you liked the concept, I used the 'select a random dramatic situation' from Mike Figgis' book and got 'self-sacrifice for idealism'...but I think i did more of "conflicts with power' story. :)

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Beth Connor
19:57 Jun 07, 2021

Vivid imagery and a poignant story that is all too familiar in the world we live in. I am intrigued by the comment by David on the imagery of the snowglobe. I always envision the people and scenes in a snowglobe are a bit trapped- perhaps the globe as a weapon (and breaking) is symbolic of Yasmine and Eyla breaking free from the roles/lives/identities the purples are putting them in. Or, perhaps a snowglobe is just a snowglobe... hahaha

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H L McQuaid
09:29 Jun 08, 2021

Hi Beth! David commented on an earlier draft where the ending didn't really tie in with the rest of story, and I changed it based on his feedback. (he didn't have an issue with the snow globe symbology, it was just the way I'd used it in the ending of the first draft). Anyway, based on some great feedback from you and others, I've upped the references to being frozen/stuck/trapped (and things being shattered/cracked). I may have gone overboard (or been way too obvious with Kriker's observation of Yasmine), but maybe I'll find a way to ma...

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Beth Connor
14:18 Jun 08, 2021

Often I don’t read the comments for that reason 😂. I start thinking too much about something that didn’t even cross my mind in the first place. Regardless, I loved the story!

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H L McQuaid
14:19 Jun 08, 2021

well, I liked what you thought about..it made me integrate those elements into the story. :)

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K. Antonio
16:15 Jun 07, 2021

I really liked how this borders on speculative fiction, almost something reminiscent of what Atwood does. That beginning it really made me think of how people threw bricks at the houses where black people lived, and the word "Chalker" caught me by surprise. It took me a while to understand that in this world the minority is white. As the dialogue went on I got a blend of two very distinct stories, "The Hunger Games" and "We Have Always Lived in the Castle", for some reason I enjoyed this tension and this play on hate and discrimination, ...

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H L McQuaid
09:35 Jun 08, 2021

Hi K, Thanks for your thoughtful analysis (as always). I hadn't really thought about the Hunger Games, but now that you mention it, I can see some parallels. I'm not familiar with "We have always lived in the castle' so I'll have to look that up. I integrated behaviours from our world (throwing bricks, authoritarian govt., putting people in concentration camps) into this world, to tell the story of power struggle and discrimination based on ethnicity, so I'm happy that you picked up on the those similarities. Thanks again for your comme...

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David G.
13:03 Jun 07, 2021

Really nicely written, Heather. You have a way with creating vivid scene settings. I have a question about the end. Why is the snow globe and stick figure so significant? I get that they clobbered the Ranger, but I don’t think I fully get why that specific imagery is so critical. Also, I wonder if there’s a different way to name the two different groups. Purples and Pales is a little bit bland, in my opinion. But that’s what it is, of course: my opinion.

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H L McQuaid
13:18 Jun 07, 2021

Hi David. Yeah, I wasn't as clear on the ending of this--other than the snow globe being used as a weapon, so still pondering what the last scene and image should be. Maybe it's Yasmine looking in the rear-view mirror, or the old woman in passenger seat welcoming her to the resistance...? As for the groups, I was playing with skin colour and ethnicity because it's an allegory to what's going on in our world, with the rise of white power groups (most likely a response to the fact that by 2045 the US will minority-white). And of course ther...

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Charlie Murphy
16:12 Jun 17, 2021

Awesome story, Heather!

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H L McQuaid
16:35 Jun 17, 2021

Thanks, Charlie. Glad you liked it. :)

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Charlie Murphy
16:52 Jun 17, 2021

You're welcome. I have a question. Monday, I tried to edit my story, but it said it was approved, but I haven't gotten a notification yet. Do you know what's going on? This happened one other time

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H L McQuaid
16:59 Jun 17, 2021

I'm not sure. I always get a notification and an email. You could contact Reedsy support and ask them?

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Charlie Murphy
17:10 Jun 17, 2021

In Marketplace? Cuz i tried clicking CHAT WITH US, but it doesn't work again.

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H L McQuaid
17:14 Jun 17, 2021

I've emailed them: support@reedsy.com

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Arwen Dove
03:55 Jun 12, 2021

Amazing story!

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H L McQuaid
16:26 Jun 12, 2021

thanks!

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Arwen Dove
20:57 Jun 12, 2021

:)

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Cathryn V
23:01 Jun 10, 2021

hello Heather, i’m late to this reading as so many have given critiques. social injustice stories always resonate with me. i appreciate the metaphorical use of color to distinguish people and power as well as the part about all blood being the same color. on that note, you have Yasmine bleeding: She limps to the bed, brick in one hand, leaving a speckled trail of milky blood. i noticed this as different than red blood of humans and wondered if the purples would bleed milky? i suppose you could show a Morado bleed milky... i especially adm...

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H L McQuaid
10:17 Jun 11, 2021

Cathryn, Thanks for reading, especially when it's not a genre you're drawn to. I'm surprised I wrote it, frankly, as I've avoided a outright fantasy (except for a fairy tale, which I'm not sure counts?). As for the blood, there's a part where Yasmine says the blood of the Pales is the same as the Morado, so hopefully readers understand that if we saw a Morado bleed, it would be the same (since they are the same species, just different skin colour). Thanks again for reading, and I'm glad you liked it despite the genre. ;)

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Cathryn V
20:14 Jun 11, 2021

I commend you for trying new things! You've done a fine job!

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