Creative writing · indie authors · indie writers · Short stories · weekly fiction · Writing prompts

Exercising the craft—February 1, 2021

By Ekta R. Garg

Instead of a traditional prompt, I’m going to focus on things I love this month. After all, it’s the month for love, isn’t it? And because it contains the best day of the year—my birthday and the birthday of The Write Edge—I thought it might be nice to do something different.

*****

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived an ordinary girl.

That’s silly. Why would you waste our time with a story about an ordinary girl? Stories are supposed to be about extraordinary people. Heroes and heroines, villains larger than life, and the sidekicks who help all of them.

True.

However, all extraordinary people were ordinary at one point. All heroes and heroines started out just wanting to go about their day. The villains weren’t born evil. And even the sidekicks didn’t know they’d be swept up in their quests and adventures. They just wanted to help their friends.

Then why not tell us about the ordinary girl after she became extraordinary? Why do we have to go all the way back to the beginning? Again, it’s a waste of time.

Because the ordinary girl is one of us. She’s like anyone. Which means any of us could become extraordinary. Any of us could become heroes or sidekicks.

Any of us can become evil.

We want the excitement, the immediate rush of intrigue. No one has time in this day and age to read paragraphs and paragraphs about boring stuff. They want to be swept away. Tornados are way more interesting than gentle breezes.

That’s also true.

But all tornadoes start as gentle breezes, don’t they?

You have to give us something, though. Some reason to keep reading. Saying this story is about an ordinary girl is like saying the grass is green. It’s a fact and not necessarily an interesting one at that.

All right. How about this:

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived an ordinary girl with a secret.

The End.

Wait, The End? How can it be the end? What was her secret? Did she reveal it to anyone? Where is this kingdom, and why is it so far away? What happens next? Don’t just tell us something interesting like that and end the story!

I’m happy to tell you the story, but it must be told the way it’s meant. I can’t change it, and I can’t speed it up or make it more exciting or any of those things. The girl’s story will unfold in its own good time. I can’t do anything about that.

Fine. Tell the story your way. We won’t interrupt anymore.

Are you sure? I’m happy to find something more exciting. Exploding spaceships, maybe, or murder on a train or something with vamp—

No, please! Anything but vampires.

Well, yes, I can see why that would be bothersome. So no creatures or murders or things-blowing-up?

No. Just tell us about the ordinary girl.

All right.

*****

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived an ordinary girl.

This girl had a secret.

The only trouble was that she didn’t know she had the secret. Not yet. She was too busy being ordinary, you see.

In fact, you can see her there, in her room. She’s about 8. Brown hair. Brown eyes. No special talents to speak of.

Right now she’s bouncing a ball against the wall, but if you look just to her right you’ll see an old trunk. It’s pushed up under the window. The girl doesn’t even notice it anymore. It’s been there as long as she’s lived in the room, you see, which has been her entire life. She’s climbed on top of it to see out the window, to watch the rain or snow, to wave to friends before running out to meet them.

She tried to push the lid once, a few years ago, but the latch on the trunk held tight. It hasn’t been opened in so long that it doesn’t even need a lock. The person most interested in locking it has long since disappeared anyway. That person meant to lock it but, in the rush to escape, forgot to do so. The key and padlock remain to this day in that person’s bag as a reminder to be careful and double-check everything, always.

But this story is about the girl for now.

So, yes, the girl tried to open the lid, but she was little, and it was heavy, and the designs on the trunk were strange and in truth made her nervous. She wouldn’t have said she was scared. By then she was 5, and someone told her that 5-year-olds were always brave. So, no, not scared. But nervous all the same. She’d heard an adult use the word once and liked how grown up it sounded. Like she was a worldly child who had traveled far and wide and been through many adventures that had the potential to make her apprehensive.

That was when she was 5. She’s since forgotten about the attempt, because, in truth, she’s more or less forgotten about the trunk. It serves as a table now for all the books she’s beginning to acquire.

It’s just as well she’s forgotten about the true nature of her “table” anyway. Inside is the secret she doesn’t know she has. It’s ticking away the minutes and hours.

Yes, my friends, it’s a watch. An old pocket watch, the kind with a chain wore around the waist of a vest and with a little pocket for the watch itself to go. The watch is large. If the girl were to take it out and hold it, it would almost fill one hand. Because this watch was never worn around the waist of a man.

It used to belong to a woman. The girl’s real mother. The girl doesn’t remember her. Actually she doesn’t even know she had her. The woman left when the girl was only four days old, left her in the care of her husband and her sister. Her sister was also her twin, so it was almost like leaving the baby with herself only in a different place.

Sorry. The story for now. The girl.

She doesn’t know about the secret, as I said, but it’s ticking away minutes and hours. Unlike other watches, this one will eventually run out of time. And when it does, terrible things will happen.

Unless the girl discovers her secret and the watch first.

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