Original Works

Crown Prince Philius [12 Genre Months]

Once upon a time, there was a crown prince named Philius. Philius stood at thirty-eight inches tall, with feet the size of his oval head and arms that stopped short of his waist. He was a splitting image of his father the king—an actuality his mother often declared in pride.

As the firstborn of the royal bloodline, Philius was to inherit all of Aeter—every flowering crop, fertile soil, bountiful harvest, and living creature. But when his father left for the underworld, Philius learned that he would only receive half of what was promised to him.

It was on a rainy day when Philius and his envoy of lions set out for Shec. Shec was a prosperous city in Aeter—a place where many amphibians and reptiles gathered for their extravagant celebrations. However, on that un-fine day, all the inhabitants of Aeter assembled for one reason and one reason only: Philius’ coronation.

Despite the gloom, the ceremony was nothing less than festive. The multifarious crowd cheered, glorious steamed beetles were served, expensive gifts in the shapes of square and rectangle were stacked two-storeys high, and Philius was pleased. He was in a boisterous mood, until an unexpected guest arrived.

Thorad, an official in the former king’s court, invited himself to the party—the one who had once engendered a rebellion and fled when his crimes were uncovered. With a plain golden chest in his hands, Thorad said, “I have come to congratulate you, Your Majesty. Here is a gift I have brought from my travels in the land of Yellow and Blue.”

“Thank you. It has been a while,” Philius replied, contemplating if he should summon his baboons to escort the traitor out.

“Is has been a while indeed, Your Majesty. You have grown.”

Philius nodded in reply—he had grown nearly five centimetres since Thorad’s insurgence.

“Your Majesty, if I may add,” Thorad continued.

“You seek a favour?” Philius asked.

“Yes, Your Majesty. Your father has put a yoke on me and my birds. Now that you are king, I wish for you to lift this burden from us. With your kindness, we will surely serve you wholeheartedly,” Thorad said, with a seemingly forceful smile.

“My father has indeed put a heavy yoke on you,” Philius replied. “But as my father’s favourite child, it is only right if I make your yoke heavier.”

“I beg your pardon?” Thorad asked, with disbelief glazing his hawkish mien.

“My father sequestered you for your betrayal, but I shall banish you instead,” Philius said.

“Your Majesty, are we not your citizens? Don’t we have a share of this land? To banish us is cruel,” Thorad challenged.

“If I am cruel, your shoulder would be missing a head and your birds their wings,” Philius threatened.

Thorad lowered his head. “Very well, Your Majesty. Your wish is my command,” Thorad resigned. And with that, Thorad and his birds departed.

One would think that King Philius could rest well that night. Alas, Philius was afraid that Thorad might rebel again—the avian king had an army of wilful aves that would attack on his command. So to keep a watchful eye on the betrayer, Philius sent a three-eyed deer after Thorad. Unfortunately, before the deer could be of any use to the king, it became the rebel’s dinner. And with that one meal came a series of events that led to the destruction of half the land—the end of half of Aeter.

Instigated by the actions of the king, Thorad ordered his birds to incite the citizens against the ruling family. And in response to the threat, Philius sent his army of eighty thousand baboons to Thorad’s camp. Philius hoped to capture Thorad, and reclaim the land Thorad had attained through mutiny. But on the night before the battle, the Star bestowed Philius a message.

The Star instructed Philius to abandon the war and send another three-eyed deer instead. The Star could foretell the future, so Philius did as he was told. When the birds saw Philius’ deer, they directed the creature with their flattering wings and deafening squawks toward their leader. And when Thorad caught the mammal, he butchered it for dinner. However, unlike his previous carnivorous meal, Thorad shared the cuts of venison with his allies—a pinch of meat each to unify their forces. And, a pinch was all it took.

When the sun rose at the break of dawn, those who had consumed the three-eyed deer didn’t wake from their slumber. Half of Aeter—who had sided with whom they hoped would be their new king—had died. And with that, Philius won the fight against the anarchist. Alas, he also lost half of what was promised to him—destroying his own inheritance, with a deer that would’ve been his own dinner the same night before.


12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

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Original Works

The Little God [12 Genre Months]

In the Celestial Court, amidst the infinite stars, there were many gods—beastly and titanic, dainty and diaphanous, faceless and elemental. They were beings of great achievements—creators of many worlds—except for one, the Little God. The Little God was often in the shadows, seemingly of little importance. No other had ever lowered their gaze in acknowledgement as she had done nothing of significance. After all, her only attribute was bearing the innocence of creation.

Unlike the gods who wore their own divine flesh, the Little God carried the faces of babes, mimicking the youthful stature of a myriad of opuses. She was as little as her name—too small for grandeur. But at that particular time—that turn of the millennium—the Little God lingered not in the periphery. For in the rise of chaos that preceded a new dawn, the Little God spoke.

The Little God had not once spoken since the conception of time. Her gentle voice commanded no authority in the Celestial Court—her words inevitably falling on deaf ears. However, the gods were failing. When their creations refused change, the gods could not forge a new beginning. And should there be no resolve for the resistance, the ethereal beings would lose their purpose. They would no longer be gods—unable to wield the power of the universe, they would cease to exist. Thus, a little bravery was warranted. Thus, the Little God said, “Let me.”

Let me grace the worlds and remind creation of their genesis. Let me show them the finer masterpiece that awaits. Let me help them believe again.”

“Do you think our creations will listen to you—a Little God trapped in the past?” the Colossal One, with white scales and black beady eyes, said. “You are of paradoxical nature to our plan.”

“Am I?” the Little God asked. “To grasp the beginning is to release the future. And as paradoxical as it may seem, I am the reflection of dawn—both yesterday’s and tomorrow’s.”

The Colossal One parted his lips. But instead of words, he hissed in reply—the Little God presented not a juvenile solution. “My very nature, of innocence and youth, is what we need,” the Little God added. “Your creations have lost the child within, and only I can help them remember.”

“Alas, we cannot be sure,” the Eidolon said—her form a silhouette, drowning in radiant light. “If we send you to our creations and you fail, we will all come to an end. We do not have time for such uncertainty.”

“But I am certain,” the Little God insisted. “Do you not trust me?” Unfortunately, the Little God knew the answer to her question the moment it left her lips. None of the other gods would trust her with this mission. None of them believed she was capable. Despite aeons of wisdom, The Little God appeared as a little one—young and foolish. “Please,” the Little God said. “Do not judge me by my appearance.”

“How can we not when your stature is the reason you fail to create? You can barely reach for the stars above—your hands unable to sustain their weight,” the Colossal One challenged. “We do not wish to look down upon you, Little God. Alas, you are what you are.”

“I may not be able to snatch the stars and wield the power they home, that is true. But I can reach into your worlds and speak into those souls—I can do what you can with your creations. Why not let me try?”

Murmurs filled the Celestial Court. The gods whispered amongst themselves and the Little God felt a pinch of hope. Perhaps they would finally accept her, looking past her childlike demeanour and believing she was just like them—a god in nature. If enough of them stood by her side, she could finally show the universe what she was truly capable of.

“I am sorry,” the Eidolon said. “I cannot believe in you, Little God.”

“Neither can I,” the Colossal One added.

“Why?” the Little God asked. “I am just like you. I can do great things.”

“You are just… too little,” the Eidolon replied. “Maybe one day, when you are able to seize a star from the universe, we will entrust our future in your hands. But for now, you shall remain where you are.”

The Celestial Court echoed in agreement and the Little God was silenced. She knew that she would never be what they wanted her to be—it wasn’t her destiny to create. The Little God had a different path—one that could save their very kind. Unfortunately, she was given no chance to prove herself worthy. The Little God would remain little… until the end of time.


12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

The Above [12 Genre Months]

“Do not, I repeat, do not do it again,” my mother chastised.

I had yet again provoked her with my disobedience. And though my actions were intentional, it wasn’t because I relished in my mother’s ire. It was simply because she had never given me a reason to stop. After all, I was curious—often wondering why not. Why was I forbidden from the surface? What danger did the beyond present that warranted punishment? What happened—a century before my birth—that forced us to live underground?

“Do you hear me?” my mother asked. Her anger had abated but she remained exasperated—a vexed disposition I could undo with a false promise.

“Yes,” I said. “I won’t do it again.”

My mother handed me a pair of yellow garden gloves. “You are to weed the garden. And if I hear any complain of truancy, you’ll be weeding the garden for the rest of your life.”

“Yes, mother.”

It was pointless to argue and more so futile to ask about the surface. My mother refused to disclose a single detail. Our subterranean society had kept the secrets of our past locked away, and only a chosen few were allowed to unearth the truth. So perhaps, my mother herself didn’t know what was in the above. Perhaps, she was merely repeating what her mother had said to her.

With the large garden gloves—appeasing my mother once more—I headed to the garden. From our small dome-shaped abode, I exited into a narrow tunnel that led to a fork in the path. Having memorised the passages—impossible to navigate if one is a foreigner with no guide—I took a right at the junction, then descended toward another split, where I turned left toward a seemingly never-ending hollow. When I finally came upon the end, there was a thick metal door. Turning the heavy handle, I entered yet another dome.

The dome, of 360 feet tall and wide, was called the garden. My mother was the chief caretaker of the only green space in our realm—the only place where one could gaze upon a palette of bright shades other than stale brown. It homed a variety of flora, sprouting from a carpet of deep green grass that spread across the floor and up the concave wall. It was paradise. It was also the meeting site for my expedition team—oh, if only my mother knew.

“Got caught again, I see,” my fellow weed-puller greeted.

“There’s always a next time,” I replied. “Did you learn anything new?”

Zee was the son of a chosen—his father frequented the above. Whenever his father returned, there would be new samples, ovules for the garden, and a journal full of notes.

“Nothing except that it remains inhabitable,” Zee said.

We had known that the world beyond was inhabitable for the past five years—the reports proved that we could ascend and start a new life. Alas, our people chose to remain. It was a strange decision—in spite of a reason to create a better life, there was no intention to move. Those un-chosen were still prohibited from venturing to the above—the claims of danger lodged into the minds of our people despite the lack of records to prove them true.

“I’ll try again tomorrow,” I stated. “Want to come along?”

“No,” Zee replied. He usually sat out of a mission if he had a valid excuse. But that day, he didn’t have one. He simply said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“What? Why?” Not him too, I thought. Zee had been with me from the start. He was always excited to try and try again. So why the sudden change of heart?

“Just,” Zee said.

“Just?” I asked in disbelief. Zee was the third member on our team to abandon our cause. What reason could he have for giving up a better future—to live in a place full of possibilities, free from this mundanity? “Just is not a good reason,” I said. “Aren’t you tired of this aimless life?”

“I’m tired of trying,” Zee said. “Maybe, one day, we’ll be chosen. Then we’ll see the above without getting in trouble.”

“You want to keep waiting? What if you’re never chosen?”

“Then I guess I’ll just make do.” Zee shrugged.

“What is that suppose to mean? You’re willing to live here for the rest of your life? We already know what lies above us. We know it is worth the risk,” I reasoned.

Zee shook his head. “You can keep trying but I’m done.” He didn’t wait for me to respond, stalking toward a colossal tree of which its very seed came from the land we were banned from even glimpsing.

“Zee,” I called out. “You can’t just give up.”

Zee turned a deaf ear. Alike the two before him, he had relented. But at what cost? Was our search for purpose a meaningless pursuit? Was it justified to let go—to never gaze upon the hues of the sunrise and the awe-inspiring oceans? Would I lose hope too?

No, I will try again tomorrow as I said I would. If I had to spend my days weeding the garden, I would. If I was the only one left believing, then so be it. I had no plans of outgrowing my faith because the above held a promise the present could never offer—the above held a future.


12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

A Single Coal [12 Genre Months]

The world was different where I came from. At the rise of the blazing sun—the start of a broken record—the people awoke in preparation of night. They donned their wide-brimmed hats, clicked their cowhide leather boots, and locked their loaded revolvers in well-worn holsters from quotidian gun-slinging. Because unlike the cliches of the wild wild west, of which most of my dusty town proved true, there was something that made this world different—something we all fought that redefined how we lived our lives.

In the neighbouring cowboy towns, no men were allowed guns. There were no duels, whether it be under the sun or in the darkness of night. Most people died from diseases and at the hooves of their own horses—rarely would one see gaping holes in their abdomen. Occasionally, a band of bandits would pay an unwelcome visit but that was as rare as justice. The most exciting thing you would find is a tumbleweed, and even that was a sign of peace.

My town, unfortunately, had no peace. And ever since I was old enough to wield a fork, I was taught to wield a weapon. When the rooster crowed, my father would holler for me and my sister. He had a shooting range of old cans and glass bottles set beside the barn with loaded pistols ready to be fired. My sister and I would spend our mornings firing and reloading. But when my mother called for lunch, training for the day was over. My father would then head into town for the daily town meeting, while the rest of us cleared the mess from the night before—salvaging everything that could be reused for the coming dusk.

For the first twelve years of my life, this repetition was normal—boarding up the windows and sleeping with our guns under our pillows was what we called life. But everything changed the evening my father returned with dreadful news.

“I pulled a long straw,” he said to my mother.

My mother’s eyes widened. She didn’t know what to say. What did the news mean to our family? Neither my sister nor I fully understood. As far as I knew, those who drew long straws didn’t all come home. The family across our field had drawn long straws many times and once, their second son didn’t return. However, as much as such information should be made privy to everyone in our town, nobody told the children—I had learned of it from watching my neighbours and eavesdropping on the murmurs between my parents. Still, I found it strange that it was the first time my father uttered those words.

“I can’t buy out of this one,” my father added.

“Then we leave. There’s still time,” my mother replied. She took a quick glance around the living room before reaching for me and my sister. But before she could do anything further, my father pulled her to a corner.

Their murmurs began. They often thought we didn’t understand or that we couldn’t put the pieces together. And for the most part, we couldn’t. But that evening, we knew something was wrong—terribly, horribly wrong.

“We cannot abandon this town,” my father stated.

“Then who should I send tomorrow when you don’t return?” my mother retorted. “Myself or the children?”

“I will return.”

My father reached for the brown sack he had tucked beneath the old bookshelf. He often said that the sack was filled with coal, dousing my curiosity to peek inside.

“I want to go with you,” I uttered. I didn’t know what I was signing up for but I hadn’t miss a shot since I was ten. There were echoes of gunfire every single night—I could help my father shoot whatever it was they shot under the moonlight.

“No. You stay home. I will return in the morning,” my father said. “Don’t worry. It’ll just be like last night.”

Not waiting for my mother to protest, my father gave us each a peck on the cheek and left. For a few minutes after, my mother stood staring at the closed door. But the second she snapped out of her daze, she boarded the door up. That night, the gunfire sounded different—they were loud and never ending. The hours of the night also seemed to tick slower than the night before. And when day finally arrived, I had not rested even for a minute.

My father came home as he said he would. The first thing he did was refill the sack with coal. That morning, I learned that it was true. My father wasn’t lying—it was indeed coal. It was the only matter that protected him. But from what, I didn’t know.

Today, I pulled a long straw. It has been three months since—representing my family at the daily town meeting. And tonight, I would see what we’d been fighting. It might sound crazy that no one has ever spoken about what the night brought to our little town in the desert. But at the very least, my late father gave me a reason—the purpose behind our battles in the dark.

“We fight in the darkness for the light of day,” I told my sister. “And if you ever draw a long straw, a single coal can light your way.”


12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Five Words [12 Genre Months]

I’ll be back, I promise—five words scribbled in black ink on a note. They were the first words I read that morning as I headed to pour myself a glass of milk. Stuck to the door of the fridge with a magnet, I thought nothing of it—he had left many notes as such. But that evening and the evenings after, I started to doubt he would ever keep his promise. Until one day, twenty years after he’d left, another note appeared.

Would you like to reconnect?—five words in a sans serif font blinked periodically on a card. They were the first words I read on a chilly December morning as I went to collect the mail. The card made no mention of whom it was from but I had an inkling. Still, I hesitated. My thumb hovered over the green ‘yes’ button on the device. Was this how I wanted to see him again? I decided to accept the request. And, there it was, the chronicles of his life.

I scrolled through the magazine of what he had been up to—the places he’d visited, the parties he’d attended, the food he’d loved, and the people he’d met and then left as digital memories. He was using a different name, or at least, not the name I used to call him. And, after I had flipped through the past ten years of his seemingly exciting and adventurous life, five more words called for action—would you like to chat? I clicked the green button once more.

“Hey Will, how’s it going?”

Will is typing a reply—the device read.

“Hey! Long time no see!”

Could I define this encounter as ‘seeing’?

“Long time indeed. What’s up?”

I wondered if I should bring up the promise he’d made twenty years ago. It didn’t really matter that he left—I moved on. I had my own collection of countries, events, food, and people, in my own magazine of life. But I wanted to know why he left, with no explanation, only to reconnect now.

“I thought about you recently.”

“That explains why you reconnected.”

“Haha! Still sarcastic I see.”

“Why all of a sudden?”

“I made a promise, remember?”

So he didn’t forget after all—those five words that left nothing but expectation. Five words that gave me no reason for his disappearance. Was he finally going to own up to his broken promise?

“Right. What’s up with that?”

“Well, I’m keeping my promise.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“I am back, aren’t I?”

Was he joking? Did he think this was acceptable—that a simple ‘hello, I’m back’ on a device was enough? Did he not think to be a little more courteous—to actually show up in person after all these years? Who gave him the right to hide behind a screen?

“It was nice ‘seeing’ you.”

I wanted to end the conversation there. And I could. All it took was a click of a red button and I would archive the entire exchange. I even had the option to ‘delete’. Then, I could toss the card out and carry on with my day.

“Wait, don’t go just yet!”

“What do you want, Will?”

“Look, I’m sorry all right.”

“Of course you are, Will.”

“Five words are too little.”

“You realised that only now?”

“I mean, on this chat.”

Five words was how the device worked. ‘Five Words’ was what it was called. It was ‘a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’—their tagline on every highway billboard and at the top of every salesman’s pitch. It was designed to reconnect people in a disconnected world. And the rule was simple: only five words—no more, no less.

“I know that too, Will.”

“I have much to say.”

“Then say it in person.”

“I want to, trust me.”

“Right. I’m signing out now.”

“Wait wait wait wait wait.”

“Our friendship was long over.”

“Can you come to me?”

Was this another joke? Did he expect me to take the first step? I was not a pushover—I never was. If he wanted a convenient friendship, he came to the wrong person.

“No. You come to me.”

“I can’t. I’m… I’m sick.”

“Sick? What kind of sickness?”

“Life threatening, the doctors say.”

“Oh. Wow. I’m sorry, Will.”

“I’m not a good friend.”

“You left without an explanation.”

“Let me apologise to you.”

Perhaps I could make an exception this time. Perhaps, for a dying friend, I could put my pride aside. After all, he wanted to make things right… and in person.

“Where are you right now?”

“I left you a box.”

“You left me a box?”

“The Yung Brothers & Co.”

“Yung brothers? Who are they?”

“My lawyers. I’m really sorry.”

I was expecting the name of a hospital. I was actually willing to make the drive. Why did Will want me to meet with his lawyers instead?

“Your lawyers? Why your lawyers?”

“I can’t apologise in person.”

“What do you mean, Will?”

“I’m sorry. I should have…”

“You should have what, Will?”

“I should have said more.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Wishing Well [12 Genre Months]

“Drop the coin and make a wish,” he told me. “But remember, it will only last a day.”

The moss-covered stone well, in the clearing of the town woods, was said to be magical. Every year, on the eve of a New Year, children would venture down a muddy path to where the stone well had been built. It was rumoured that the stone well, of which its depth no one could ever surmise, was the work of the early settlers who had sailed from Gaul. Though not in any historical records, many believed that the early settlers were Druids. After all, the strange occurrences in the small township of a thousand were often left unexplained. From the blooming of lavender in winter, to the display of red and green light streaming across one autumn night, one cannot insist that the place I called home was—for the lack of scientific explanations—magical.

“How do you know if it worked?” I asked.

“Make it an obvious wish,” my best friend, who had tossed a coin the year before, replied.

I was seven that New Year’s Eve. And so I made an obvious wish—a prayer, almost—that my parents wouldn’t go through with their divorce. That perhaps, for just one more day, we could be a happy family. And, though arguable that it might just be an educated decision on my parents’ end, they didn’t file the papers until I turned twelve.

Every year after my first coin toss, I returned to the stone well with my best friend. I made wishes, which were so realistically possible, that they never failed to come true. I was a child. I had yet chosen the path of a skeptic. It was only on my twenty-first year, when I returned home for the year end holidays, did I truly put the stone well and its supposed magic to the test.

“Are you sure you want to do this,” my best friend asked.

“Only for a day, right?”

“Correct. But remember how your parents stayed together for five years?” he recalled, almost as if he believed the fairytale to be true.

“Don’t tell me you still believe in this… wishing well.”

“Don’t tell me you have a reason for the frost flowers last summer,” he challenged—yet another bizarre phenomenon where the town lake blossomed ice crystals in the 40 °C heat.

“Yes, strange things happen here. But stranger things have happened elsewhere. Just Google it,” I stated.

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged. “I’m just saying, what you’re wishing for, if not for a day, can ruin you.”

I chuckled. What was the worst that could happen, I thought. If magic was indeed real, then I wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. If magic could save me from the agonizing pain—a pain I’ve failed to rid myself of for the past year—why not give it a try? And… if this magic decided to prolong its stay, it would be a blessing in disguise.

So on the night of December 31st, I met my best friend at the trail-head of the timberland with a coin and a torchlight in hand. We chatted about our school year for the entire twenty-minute stroll until, there it was, the stone well basking beneath the pastel moonlight. There was no one else around—the children had visited in the morning, the high-schoolers in the afternoon, and some of the adults had dropped by before their New Year celebration. At that hour, everyone was in town waiting upon the fireworks.

“You sure you want to do this,” he asked once more. “All you need is time. Wishing it away…”

Time—everybody told me I would heal with time. But how much time, nobody had an answer. They weren’t seeing her in class, watching her laugh with her friends, and witnessing the glimmer in her eyes when she held his hand. Oh, how I wish I could move on. But I was stuck—my soul crushed by a lost love over and over again.

“It’s been a year. I can’t—I’ve tried. Trust me, I have. I just… I can’t get over her,” I admitted.

“But wishing your feelings away isn’t going to make it better. You’re going to feel again after tomorrow. If… only if, the wish lasts a day.”

“I’m just going to wish to stop feeling for her. I’m not wishing all my feelings away.”

“Then make it clear when you toss the coin.”

“Don’t worry. I know what to wish for.”

And so I made my wish. I didn’t hear the coin hit bottom—no one has ever heard the echo of their wish. But from that New Year onward, I believed what some still thought to be a myth. The stone well was indeed magical. It had granted me yet another wish, but in the oddest way I thought possible. Because from that day, I never saw her again.

It wasn’t that she didn’t exist. She was alive. She was still in my class. I would sometimes catch her friends speaking about her. But, I never saw her. In fact, I couldn’t recall her face. She had become a ghost of a memory—a lost love that could never be found. And… it was all thanks to the wishing well in the little town of Bluestone.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Voices From The Attic [12 Genre Months]

Whispers, they often called it—unintelligible whispers between people. But unlike the visitors, I didn’t hear an utterance of a word coming from the dead space. In fact, I couldn’t hear at all.

I was raised in an old Victorian house. Every year, my father would order tins of white paint to keep the pillars, balustrades, and walls in pristine appearance. He would often check the floorboards—quick to fix even the softest creak. And every single time I asked him why he was in a rush to mend the walls and polish the doorknobs, he would declare his love for the place we called home.

My father claimed that our home held more history than the local museum. He would rattle about the heritage to anyone who would listen. But strangely enough, my father never once shared a story about its past—who built it, what happened to the early settlers, and why was it worthy of his love? Those common questions were left unanswered—the moment someone brought them up, my father would default to babbling about the weather. Strange, yes. But though his response always made me curious, I chose to remain ignorant.

For the most part, nothing bizarre occurred within the ever-white walls. The house wasn’t haunted—or at least, it never felt that way. Nothing moved or went missing, and there weren’t any cold spots as how TV ghost hunters would determine the presence of otherworldly beings. However, when I was finally old enough to host sleepovers, I began to wonder if my father had a reason for withholding his stories—if they were more sinister than I expected.

They said they heard voices, I told my father. Voices coming from the attic.

“Voices?” he asked. “What time did you girls go to bed?”

Ten. It wasn’t that late.

“You know what happens when you’re tired, right?”

I shook my head, clueless as to what my father was implying.

“You imagine things,” he merely stated.

My friends could very well be imagining the voices they heard. After all, children had a knack for exaggeration. But because of the whispers—claimed to have come from right above my bedroom ceiling—none of my friends would sleep in my house again. From that day onward, I had to go to theirs. And, for the rest of the summer, everyone thought my house was haunted.

Was I ever curious about the voices? Yes. But just like my friends, it was a fleeting curiosity. I was quick to forget the conversation I had with my father. And since no one else mentioned about hearing them, I forgot about it altogether. It was only after fifteen years—when my husband and I visited my parents—did that particular memory resurface.

“Are there people in the attic?” my husband asked.

No. Why?

“I… never mind,” he said.

What is it?

“I thought I heard something, that’s all.” When he caught apprehension sweeping across my face, he added, “I must’ve been imagining it—it was a long drive.”

Let me ask my dad.

“He’ll think I’m crazy.” My husband chuckled. “It’s probably just the fatigue. Let’s call it a night.”

I agreed—perhaps it was indeed the exhaustion. But as someone who couldn’t hear a single sound since birth, I found myself awoken in the middle of the night by an intrusion I least expected.

“I want them to leave,” a female voice whispered—words seemingly carried by the wind.

The hair on my nape stood as I pushed myself seated on the bed. While I contemplated waking my husband, I heard another voice—belonging to a man—reply, “They won’t be staying long.”

The voices were coming from above my bedroom—the same bedroom I slept in for eighteen years of my life. But as I gazed up at the ceiling, I saw nothing but well-patched plaster. Was I imagining too? Was it a dream?

“I’m leaving tomorrow. I cannot live here anymore,” the female voice insisted.

“They won’t harm us,” the other replied.

“Then why are we hiding?”

“I’ll… I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“Tell him we’re selling—I’m not raising our child in a haunted house.”

Silence followed after the woman’s declaration. There were no more whispers—no more voices from the attic. I strained my ears for a decibel of a sound, but I heard nothing. Assuming it was all in my head, I returned to sleep. But when the rooster crowed, I found it hard to ignore what I had heard. So I pulled my father aside after breakfast, hopeful for a reasonable explanation.

I heard voices last night, coming from the attic.

“Voices? What kind of voices?” my father asked.

Human voices. They were talking about us.

“What time did you go to bed?”

Dad, I’m not a child.

“Then you should know better than to ask.”

What do you mean?

“I mean, go to bed early. You shouldn’t be hearing anything.”

I don’t understand. Why-

“If they can’t hear you, you can’t hear them.”

Dad, you’re not-

“Forget it,” he sternly replied.

Dad, what’s-

“The weather looks good today, doesn’t it? We should have a picnic—I’ll inform your mother.”

From that day onward, I didn’t hear the voices again. There were no more ghostly whispers. The attic was silent. And not because I went to bed early. It wasn’t even because I was deaf. There were no more voices because there was a fire—a fire I would soon have to forget for this story to repeat itself, over and over again.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

The Murder Of Lady Patricia [12 Genre Months]

The body of Lady Patricia was found sprawled at the foot of the hallway stairs. She had arrived at the party a mere ten minutes prior to her death—the night still young when she met her demise. It was a seemingly straightforward case with an evident cause of death. But if it was indeed as simple as I hoped it to be, I wouldn’t have been called to head the investigation. Oddities were my specialty. And the oddity that came with Lady Patricia’s passing were the five suspects—the people present during her murder—who were all below the age of twelve.

The first suspect was the young, blue-eyed Master Lucas, who proudly declared he had just turned five upon our introduction. He claimed to be in the kitchen when the incident occurred, snacking on a couple of forbidden cookies before dinnertime. The boy apologised for what he deemed as a serious crime—projecting a remorseful mien—but made no mention of the death that occurred in his home. It was almost, as if, he didn’t even know.

The second suspect was nine-year-old, soft-spoken Miss Matilda. During the entirety of our conversation, Miss Matilda kept her gaze on the polished oak-wood floor and fiddled with the frills of her pastel pink dress. She claimed to have been with young Lord Harry, clinking glasses of grape juice in the living room. According to her testimony, it was only after their conversation about her talking parakeet that she heard a series of thudding coming from the hallway—both Miss Matilda and Lord Harry found Lady Patricia in her lifeless state.

The third suspect was none other than Lord Harry. Lord Harry was the oldest amongst the five—barely a few months short of the age of twelve. He was the most respectable guest with a spotless family background. When I spoke to the young man, he confidently gave a detailed account of the night, proving he was indeed with Miss Matilda. But despite having an alibi, I wasn’t convinced—both Lord Harry and Miss Matilda claimed to be unaware of Lady Patricia’s arrival.

The fourth suspect was in her bedroom when the incident occurred. Miss Rebecca had to change out of her white dress when she accidentally spilled grape juice on herself. She claimed to have heard footsteps outside her bedroom door shortly before Lady Patricia’s murder. Miss Rebecca only left her bedroom when she heard Miss Matilda’s scream. The seven-year-old saw no one on her floor prior to and after the incident.

The last suspect was the only suspect who spoke with Lady Patricia. Master William had greeted her at the door, ushered her into the reading room, and offered her a drink. He informed her that dinner would soon be ready, before returning to the kitchen to check on the turkey in the oven. The ten-year-old claimed he had been preparing dinner with Miss Rebecca when the doorbell rang. But upon his return, Miss Rebecca was nowhere to be found.

After speaking with the young suspects, there were a few statements that didn’t match up. Miss Rebecca and Master William were shuffling from the kitchen to the dining room—in preparation for the party—but did not once see Master Lucas in his cookie thievery. The living room was located adjacent to the front door—sharing a hallway leading to the kitchen—which meant that both Lord Harry and Miss Matilda had to be speaking in high decibels to have not notice the doorbell. There was also not a single drop of grape juice, nor an extra drinking glass, to be found in the kitchen despite the stained white dress in Miss Rebecca’s room. And upon the arrival of the police, the roasted turkey was no longer in the oven but nestled in the center of the dining table complete with the feast for the night. Which begs the question: who was telling the truth?

Did Master Lucas have the strength to push a fully grown woman down the stairs? Were Miss Matilda and Lord Harry co-culprits of Lady Patricia’s death? Was there a more sinister cause of the stain on Miss Rebecca’s dress? Why did Master William set the table after a death in the house, or had the table been set prior to Lady Patricia’s arrival? And, the most baffling question of them all: why was Lady Patricia invited to a party, hosted by people outside of her social circle? Did the five children plot her death or was I over-complicating the case—was it the doing of an outsider who saw no threat in a house full of children? Or was it… simply… an accident?

I concluded that the most likely culprit was Lord Harry. He requested the assistance of Miss Matilda—a child infatuated with her best friend’s brother—to act as his alibi and rehearse the story he concocted. And though the young Lord had a spotless history, the evidence I’ve stacked against him could not be ignored. All I did was say he was guilty and the boy took the fall—it was that easy. But wait, who was the real murderer? Oh, how naive of Lady Patricia to even think she could get away. Out of the mouth of babes she often spoke, and out of the mouth of babes I shall rest my case.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Missing Buttons [12 Genre Months]

There were always two buttons missing—two buttons from my white, collared shirt, two buttons from the back pockets of my navy blue jeans, and two buttons from my black, iron-pressed blazer. I grew up with two buttons less than everyone else. And, it was never a problem despite the curiosity my strange circumstances stirred.

Growing up, everyone seemed to notice my missing buttons—my friends, their parents, the teachers, and the bullies. Nobody dared to ask where my buttons had gone to—some teased and made wild assumptions—but they were all very curious. From the way they parted their lips in hesitation of a question to the way their eyes darted to and from the loose threads, I knew they wanted to know. Alas, I myself had no idea where my buttons were. I didn’t remove them on purpose. There was no reason for me to un-thread them. They just always went missing in my possession. And the older I got, the more baffled I was by their mysterious disappearances. Yet, oddly enough, I didn’t see the need to find out why, how, and what. That is, until the day they reappeared—all of them… in my bedroom cupboard.

I had lived thirty-five years with two missing buttons from everything I owned. I had learned to adapt, using zips and velcros to hold things in place. People were still curious. I still shrugged in oblivion of the answer they sought. However, it wasn’t a predicament. I could live with missing buttons. I didn’t need them. But on the night of my thirty-fifth birthday, I found them.

I had just returned from a dinner with friends when I yanked my cupboard open for a clean pair of clothes. As the door clicked free from the magnetic lock, a heap of buttons streamed onto my wooden floor. At first, I thought it was a joke. Everyone I knew, knew about my missing buttons. There was a possibility that someone thought it would be funny to gift me hundreds of buttons to make up for all the missing ones. But while I cupped the buttons into an empty pail, I noticed something about them—most of them weren’t new. The white, plastic buttons had turned off-white, the metal ones had browned from oxidation, and the cloth-covered buttons were peeling from their seams. They were my buttons. And at the realisation of my past returning to haunt me, I hastily reached for the phone to give my mother a call.

“The missing buttons, mum. The ones from my shirts and pants—they’re all here,” I said, withholding not the apprehension in my voice.

“What about those buttons?” my mother asked.

“They’re here, mum. Right here, in my house—in my cupboard.”

“Just toss them out if you don’t need them,” my mother replied, too calmly.

“I know. I will. But why are they here? All of them—suddenly?”

“I don’t know,” my mother said.

“Wait…” My mother wasn’t reacting the way I thought she would—she was taking the event too lightly. Was she the culprit? Could I now heave a sigh of relief? “Was it you? Did you put them here?” I asked.

“Why would I put buttons in your cupboard?”

“This isn’t funny, mum. Are you and dad hiding in the kitchen or something?” I stalked toward the bedroom door, ready to call my mum out on her joke—ready for the birthday surprise. Unfortunately, such wasn’t the case.

“Ben, I wouldn’t take a five-hour flight just to put buttons in your cupboard,” my mother insisted—her tone now serious.

“Then how did they get here?” I demanded. “Who put them here?”

At that question, I froze. There was more to my fear—now rooting me to the ground. Who… put them here? Who was the person who had stolen my buttons for thirty-five years and had just decided to return them without reason. Was this person still in the house? Was this person watching me?

“Mum, I need you to ask dad to call the police,” I said.

“Ben, you need to calm down.”

“I can’t calm down, mum. Those missing buttons…” I paused, hesitating to leave the bedroom. “Someone was here. Someone put-”

“Ben, I need you to calm down.”

“How do you expect me to calm down? Someone-”

You… put them there, Ben,” my mother interrupted.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Ben, I need you to listen.”

“Mum-”

“I need you to collect those buttons and throw them out. Can you do that?” my mother asked.

“I… don’t understand.”

“Just do as I tell you.”

“Why?”

“Ben, listen to me. You have-”

“I’ve got to go, mum.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She sounded insane. “I’ll call you later.”

“Don’t hang up on me. I need you to throw the buttons away and tell me once you’ve done so.”

Why did she insist I do that? I turned to look behind me where the buttons had spread across the bedroom floor. But in the expectation of their disconcerting nature, I found them gone.

“Ben,” my mother called. “Ben, are you there?”

“Yes,” I replied. Where did the buttons go? How did they just… disappear. “They’re gone… the buttons.”

“You threw them out?”

Should I tell her that they simply vanished? I didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to panic. Did I imagine it all? Despite the many troubling questions, I heard myself say, “Yes, I threw them out.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“They’re gone now.”

“Good,” my mother said. “Now, go to bed—it’s late.”

I hesitated to douse the mystery—to demand for an explanation. But instead, I did as I was told. After all, they were gone now—the buttons were missing once again. And honestly, that was all that mattered.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

How About John? [12 Genre Months]

“How about John? He’s the closest to your type,” she said.

I shrugged in reply. It was almost always like this–conversations that moved from work to the possible candidates around me. And, because my type was often considered a niche, I was given the same names–encouraged to approach the same few men on a helplessly short name list.

“If you want, I know of a way I can get you and John acquainted,” she added, with a beaming smile.

Yes, I didn’t know John. But funnily enough, I knew a lot about him. Friends in common have showed me his social media profiles. They have spoken highly of him. They have shared their encounters and praised John’s admirable qualities. I wasn’t even sure if I could call John an acquaintance. I knew too much–it was as if we were actually friends.

“Nah,” I replied. My answer was always the same.

“A few of us are getting together this weekend. You should join–John will be there.”

“Nah,” I repeated. Why should I try? Based on past experiences, trying didn’t do me any good. Whenever I took steps to get to know someone new, I would quickly learn I didn’t fit their bill. It was always a waste of precious time–time I could’ve spent reading that book I bought three years ago or simply staring at a wall.

“You have to make an investment if you want something to happen, you know,” she said.

Did I actually want something to happen? Everyone made John out to be this sought after man, that I should make a move if I wanted to be noticed. But honestly, I didn’t care if he noticed me. So why did I need to get his attention? Why couldn’t he be the one seeking my attention instead?

Perhaps it wasn’t like this for John. Perhaps the gentlemen didn’t suggest names, show pictures, and offer help during their get-togethers. Perhaps it was only us ladies who tried endlessly to match-make our friends. Why did we do that? Why were we all equally guilty of making romance a key player in our happiness?

“It sounds like too much work,” I replied.

She sighed an expected sigh. It wasn’t the first time–I’ve made a lot of people sigh. They would either sigh at my lack of attempt or when I turned down a potentially good candidate.

“That’s not a priority right now,” I added.

She frowned an expected frown. It was a common response to my hypocritical statement. Despite the quest for love not being a priority in my life, it sometimes felt important–important enough to entertain suggestions and make plans. So yes, I was a hypocrite. But, not because I chose to be one. I had no reason for oscillating between genuine interest and resignation. I didn’t understand my actions and decisions in this subject matter. Was it just me? Or were we all on the same swaying boat, tossed in a storm of expectations and acceptance.

“How about Matthew?” she asked.

She wasn’t listening to me. No one listened to the boy who cried wolf. And, to prove my role in the acclaimed fable, I asked, “Who?”

“Hold on, let me show you.” She swiftly retrieved her phone from her handbag, excited to show me a new candidate. Alas, when I gazed upon his picture, I could only offer a disappointing response.

“Oh, this guy,” I replied with little enthusiasm.

“He’s almost your type.”

“Yea, but…”

“No?”

“No.”

“Seriously, it’s impossible to find someone you like.”

“I know.”

It was a blessing in disguise. If no one could fit my ideals, I could think about something else. I could spend my energy and resources on the other things that made me happy.

“How about you?” I asked. It was time to shift the conversation around–to stop dwelling on the fact that I might be single for life. Was that a happy or a sad fact? It didn’t matter. It was her turn to contemplate about her happiness. “Aaron is a nice guy,” I stated.

“He is,” she replied. “But our desires don’t align.”

“What desires? He seems like a good fit for you.”

“He wants a stay-at-home wife. I can’t be that.”

“Oh. That’s disappointing. I guess we can scrape him off your list then.”

“Yea.”

“How about John? He’s almost your type,” I said.

“I… don’t know.”

Was she now pondering if a relationship could truly make her happy? Did she care if John noticed her? Was she willing to take the first step?

She wasn’t like me. She never once said that a relationship wasn’t a priority. But, maybe she kept that thought to herself. Perhaps I wasn’t the only hypocrite. Or, maybe I was–she could be more hopeful than I would ever be. She could have more suitors and prospects. In comparison, my lack of effort could be a reflection of my unpopularity.

Stuck in the unknown of my own wants and desires, it was my turn to heave a sigh. I didn’t sigh at her response but at the undetermined, incomprehensible, and often bothersome state I was in. How long would I have to float in this unsettlement? Alike its very nature, I will never know.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)