Original Works

Twenty-Twenty [12 Genre Months]

March 18, 2020

It’s a typical Wednesday—bumper to bumper traffic on the Federal Highway since 8 a.m. The midweek blues has officially set it, and I can’t wait for the weekend. How boring can today be, am I right? There is, however, an interesting topic for discussion—my colleagues and I have been talking about a virus. Its rapid spread in the past few months has made it a global affair. It’s literally #trending. Oddly enough, no one seems to care. I guess… we’ll get over it soon.

March 20, 2020

One more long day before the weekend! And guess what? We’re having a farewell party for Siva tomorrow. It’s his last month with us before he leaves the country for his new job in Germany. Since he told us he resigned, we’ve been trying to speak German with him. I’ve gotta say, he’s pretty good. Granted, he took classes. Meanwhile, I’m here trying to learn Korean from k-dramas.

March 21, 2020

Evelyn just called. She said she isn’t feeling very well, and might even call in sick next week. Evelyn rarely falls sick. I mean, she’s the healthiest one of our lot. The girl hits the gym like… everyday? Well, I guess there’ll be more food for me later. Though, I don’t really feel all that great either. But… I can’t just bail too, right? We’ve been planning this farewell for a while now. So… I’ll just go. After all, I already bought a new dress for tonight—when else can I wear it?

March 23, 2020

Yup, Evelyn called in sick. She must be feeling horrible—she barely replies to my messages. Poor girl. She isn’t even sure if she has the flu or some other virus. Hopefully, with enough rest, she’ll get back to the office soon. We’re in a very busy season, and one man down affects us all. Now if only… I could call in sick, too.

March 25, 2020

Unbelievable. Three more people called in sick today. I can’t possibly be covering for everyone. This is insane! I already have this impossible client on my hand, and now I have to take on their clients, too? Also, why do people think it’s okay to call in sick over a little cold? Just pop a freaking Panadol. Don’t have Panadol? The office has some! Just get your butt to work!

March 27, 2020

Just got a message from our office WhatsApp group—Evelyn is in the hospital. A few of us want to visit her this weekend. We’re thinking of getting a few balloons, just to brighten her mood a little. Though, we don’t know what time we should go. Evelyn still hasn’t been responding to her messages. Honestly, I’m a little worried.

March 28, 2020

I can’t remember the last time I went to a hospital, but are all hospitals this busy? There were so many people, it took us forever just to get Evelyn’s room number. As for Evelyn, she wasn’t conscious when we arrived. Her family was there though, and they said she has the virus. Since we couldn’t talk to Evelyn, and it was awkward conversing with her parents, we left the balloons and called it a day.

March 30, 2020

I had to apply for an emergency leave today—mum wasn’t feeling well. She said something about not being able to breathe. So I had to take her to the hospital. This hospital, too, had a lot of people. For some reason, everyone decided to fall sick at the same time. And it’s a little troubling—I don’t think they have enough staff to handle the crowd. Well, hopefully mum gets better soon.

March 31, 2020

The nurses told me I can’t visit mum anymore. They said it was too dangerous. They wouldn’t explain anything. Heck, they don’t even have the time to entertain any of my questions. So I’m not sure what is going on. It feels like the end of the world… yet everyone is acting like it’s just another regular day. I also heard some people mention the virus. Apparently, it’s still trending. But… no one seems to care? I hope we’ll get over it soon.


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Umbra [12 Genre Months]

“Count yourself lucky,” I would say. “If you know what you are.” After all, there are many beings, such as myself, who will never truly understand what it means to exist. For the very idea itself is a foreign concept in our inconsequential realm. And if only we could uncover the secret of our identities… such wouldn’t be our fate.

If you are unlike me, this account might puzzle you. How is it possible for a being to not know what it is? Alas, it isn’t as uncommon as you think. Who, what, how, why—these were the burdens I carried as I drew my first breath. I was granted a life of perpetual suffocation, with no guidance or clarity, as I drowned in the unknown. Yet, upon my arrival into the world, I wasn’t alone. 

As I embraced the break of dawn—my dreadful beginning—I found myself tethered to an odd-looking creature. It was a rather small beast, and it made unintelligible sounds. Frankly, I didn’t know what it was, let alone who I was to have been attached to it. So why were we bound together? Where did it come from? And how did we become one?

With no recollection of my life before, I soon accepted my fate—I was a prisoner of a mysterious entity for the rest of my life. I would live with it, laugh with it, and die with it. But unlike my captor, who quickly understood what it was, I remained a nothing—a nothing that needed permission to even show itself. And even so, such bouts of freedom were often short-lived—I would soon find myself unseen, once more, as I returned to the world of the invisible. Oh, what a life. How could I ever escape? Was there a way to cut myself free from such a malefic beast? Yes. In fact, there is. And this is where you can help me.

I have thought long and hard on what it means to exist. I have also observed the ways of my master, and the company that existed with it. It took many years, but I soon found a common denominator between the creature that had me on a leash and the others—they all owned a defining moniker. These beings had a name. They were blessed with a chosen word, of which they built a life upon. For without it, they would lurk in the darkness—forever wondering what they were. Simply put, they would be me… if they weren’t gifted with an appellative. Now, how then can you help me?

My name is Umbra. I had chosen this name for myself—a blinding reflection of the life I have lived thus far. But no more. I refuse to remain hidden. And it is through you that I will finally exist. For who am I without you… but a shadow? Your shadow—the one who followed you, envied you, and wondered if you knew I was even alive. I am the being of insignificance whose name you are now acquainted with—whose existence you finally acknowledged. And unfortunately, this is when you cease to exist.

Still, count yourself lucky. At the very least, you once knew… what you were.


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Hashtag [12 Genre Months]

“Oh my gawd, did you see what she posted? #CrayCray.”

“I was #shook, girl! But seriously, I heard she broke down in front of his house… over a piece of sandwich. A freaking piece of sandwich.”

“Talk about dramatic. She has always been a #dramaqueen.”

“What’s #new? She loves the attention.”

 “Oh my gawd, did you know what happened on #Tuesday?”

“Why, what happened? What did I miss? #FOMO.”

“Our class got cancelled and no one told us about it. So we waited for a full 30 minutes before we left. #Seriously.”

“You guys just… left? Like… for real? That’s super #thuglife.”

“Yea, we strolled out like a #boss. But oh my gawd, what a waste of 30 minutes. 30 minutes of my life that I will never, ever get back!”

“I feel you, girl. Just the other day, I had to wait 5 minutes for the bus. #Unbelievable! Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

“Wait, don’t you have a car? How dare you take the bus! #Scandalous.”

“I had to get it repaired. Something about the engine or the brakes, god only knows. #FirstWorldProblems.” 

“Oh, hold on. My mother is at the door. #Ughhh she’s asking about dinner.”

The hall erupted in a deafening applause. Its audience rose to their feet, cheering in delight at the seemingly impressive dialogue between two plainly dressed actors. Praises of brilliance—‘bravo’, ‘such ingenuity’, and ‘oh, how captivating’⁠—filled the air. And even after the lights dimmed and the stage emptied, everyone wanted to know—what did it all mean?

“It’s art,” many insisted. “An artistic exchange between two beautiful souls. Couldn’t you feel it? Those colourful words spoke to my soul. ”

“It’s the future,” others concluded. “In the future, that is how people will speak. The writer has predicted a world full of expression.”

“It’s reality,” some suggested—though not a popular opinion. “Who we are as people, and the reflection of our inner insecurities.” 

Alas, it didn’t matter what it all meant. In fact, there wasn’t any meaning to it—there was no story, no real character development, and nothing philosophical between the lines. If one dared say, it wasn’t a real performance either. The actors on the stage, reciting their lines in dramatic Shakespearean manner, were not telling a story. The ones who truly performed… were the audience. Ah, how strange—it seems that some did uncover the meaning behind it all.

“It’s reality,” they said with an excited grin. “A beautiful slice of life.”


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Geheim [12 Genre Months]

‘I didn’t know what I was getting into until now—the moment I chose you. But as romantic as this sounds, we have always known that our lives would be different. From the day we chose this path, we are living out our vow to leave all normality behind—accepting that one day, we will be given a responsibility beyond our capabilities. Still, the choice is ours. It has always been and it will always be. Thus, you have a decision to make.

‘But… before you do, know this—it wasn’t an easy decision. Choosing you wasn’t easy. Our company has struggled to bring this case to a close, and only the most capable is trusted with the job. Alas, you are the most capable amongst our colleagues—both a compliment and a curse, I’m afraid. So even if you think you are not ready, trust me when I say, you are the most ready. Still, this will not be forced upon you.

‘You do not, in any way, have to feel obligated. I, myself, accepted this task out of choice. Thus you are free to decline. No one—neither those before nor those after you—will pass any judgement. After all, none of us wished to be called upon for this—the daunting quest we all secretly feared. The perilous journey where no man before has ever returned from—that even I can only pray to succeed as to not have the baton passed on to you. But forgive me, should you be reading this. I did try my very best.

‘Now, decide. At eighteen past noon, you are to drop this letter in the blue mailbox at the junction between Geheim Street and Upper Agentin Lane should you wish to accept. However, if you have chosen to decline, do nothing except erase these last words from memory. Once you have made your decision, you will receive your next course of action—either way, what we signed up for has no end.

‘I wish you good luck, my dear friend. I hope that you treasure every moment of peace in this turbulent world. It has been an honour to serve with you, and may you continue to make me and our company proud.’

“Sign,” she ended.

I scribbled my name at the bottom of the handwritten letter—crafted under her dictation—before handing it over.

“If you fail,” she added. “We will have to send this.”

I nodded. I knew the procedure. I had only one reservation—one that reflected on my countenance.

“What, Agent Lee?” she prompted.

“Well, I’m not too sure if the letter is convincing,” I said.

“You shouldn’t be worried about convincing your colleague,” she replied. “You should be worried about the mission, and accomplishing it.”

“Ah, yes.” Of course, succeeding at the mission was my top priority. The day I received my summon in the mail—the handwritten note that was supposedly sent by my mentor—I knew I would be the one that finally infiltrated the nuclear base. Still, a bizarre discomfort had settled in my chest—one that I couldn’t shake. “I’m sorry, you can count on me. It’s just…”

“Just what, Agent Lee?”

“The letter… and the words…” I hesitated. Was it even worth mentioning? It seemed, almost, trivial.

“What about them?” she asked.

“I… wouldn’t call this mission romantic. And I don’t use the words perilous or, say, turbulent.”

“Agent Lee,” she replied.

“Yes ma’am.”

“It doesn’t matter what you would call this mission or what words you say. The decision will be hers either way,” she stated.

“Yes ma’am.” She was right—the content of my letter didn’t matter. It was, indeed, trivial. It must have been the nerves. After all, I had a mission to accomplish—to do what those before me had failed to do. And should I succeed, the letter itself wouldn’t even leave the room.

“Now, report to weapons. We have a few upgrades,” she ordered. “And agent…”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Keep your head in the game.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll return with glory,” I said with a firm nod.

Glory—what a strange word. Was that a word Jonathan had used? Jonathan was a man of little words. He barely spoke, let alone write. Clearly he didn’t pen his letter, too. Still… glory—the only word I could recall from his letter. Oddly enough, everything else was a blur. But… it didn’t matter what he wrote—I was on a mission.

A mission so romantically perilous… that I chose to enlist in the fullness of my sanity.


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Quietus [12 Genre Months]

They had predicted it wrong—from the famed prophecies of Nostradamus to the scientific journals by acclaimed scientists—no one could foresee the end of times. And though the wild imaginations of filmmakers and conspiracy theorists were one step closer to the truth, even they had failed to be prepared. For in reality, the end of the world had long been in motion—we were simply blinded by our conceit and complacency to notice it happening… right before our very eyes.

It began on the dewy morning of August 6th, 1954—my arrival to the dying planet. The wheels of time, determining the fate of humanity, creaked in the rust of the lives that once were. And I… was the only being who could hear it. Funny, isn’t it? How not a soul that graced the earth had ever came to be with death in mind. Yet, from the moment they captured the beauty of the world, heard and uttered scores of intriguing sounds, and stumbled foolishly on their little feet, they were in a dance with death—death that they never knew existed. Death that even I wasn’t spared from. Alas, I was no different.

Despite my hope to be an observer, I had little choice but to be. Thus, it wasn’t long after my arrival that I learned of my never-ending demise. From the squabbles beyond my bedroom door that led to broken china, to the antagonistic notes I found in my school bag that framed my identity, every bit of the young starry-eyed dreamer was destroyed before I could even grasp the magnitude of the world. But thankfully, I saw the planet for what it was… and found a way to live.

Perhaps, you wonder—how did such a foreign being succeed? No, I hadn’t unlocked the secret to escaping death. I was no magician, nor crazed enough to concoct a draught for eternal life. In fact, there was no possible means to triumph over one’s destiny. After all, it was a dying planet—not the land itself but the very notion of life that lived within. So how then did I survive?

Just like the taunts of fate, that often sets a macabre stage, are the taunts that reach into the soul—the descent into darkness that swallows all hope, contorts all belief, and destroys the very essence of self. But I, unlike most beings, understood the purpose of those dreadful seasons—not the ‘why’ for their existence, but the ‘how’ to overcome them. Thus, at every dark corner, I learned to pick up the pieces of my shattered dreams and rebuild what was broken. And all it took was a single decision… to live again.

To live on a dying earth is an incredible feat—a planet designed to outlive all physical demise. Yet, in an apocalyptic world, with a vicious cycle of lost, pain, and regret, there was more—a bountiful land of wonder, love, and adventure. And though all life was set to run a course, truly living wasn’t escaping. It was believing that life prevails.

On the morning of August 6th, 2054, my dance was over. I took a step back, bowed at death, and received a deafening applause. It was a praise only I could hear, for keeping the twinkle in the eyes of the young starry-eyed dreamer. But it was all the praise I needed—an acknowledgment that I found a way to live until my dying breath.


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Tragedy [12 Genre Months]

I often thought it was a tragedy—how life, as you know it, could change the moment you lost your family. How horrifying it must be as the one left behind. Yet, I never once believed that it could happen to me. After all, I was of noble birth. So who would have thought that I, the child of a respected minister, was just as vulnerable—unspared from the anxiety, fear, and torment? It was only when they came that I realised… I was just like everyone else.

It was never my choice. It was the law that governed our flawless society. Alas, with one wrong step, your blood didn’t matter. For when they came for you, just as they came for us, no amount of pleading or gold could save you from their loaded rifles. It was, after all, a merciless procedure—your fate had already been sealed. And just like mine, I was the only one left—once belonging, now alone. Once free, now a captive.

“Welcome to the cage.” The cage—introduced so indifferently after my mother told me to run. “You’ll get used to it.”

A cold metal collar was strapped around my neck—its incessant beeping tracked my every move. And with the plain white, over-sized uniform hanging loosely on my shoulders, the guards of the hidden world led me to my isolation. This was my new reality—no longer a being but a number. If only… I could find a way to escape.

“You want out?” she asked.

“You know, if they catch you trying, they’ll zap you,” he said, tapping on his own collar. 

“They won’t kill you though,” she stated. “They’ll just warn you not to do it again.”

“I’d rather die,” I replied. “They might as well kill me.”

I had anticipated my cell neighbours to nod in agreement. Oddly, they laughed—a belly-aching laugh, with tears at the corner of their eyes, as if I had told a good joke.

“Why is that funny?” I asked with a frown. 

“Because it is,” he said with a smirk. 

At that instant, I had an inkling that they knew something I did not. And though I was tempted to ask, I was unsure if I could trust them. For some bizarre reason, they seemed rather contented with their lives.

“You’ll find out why, once you get used to this,” she said. 

Life in the cage wasn’t difficult—honestly, it was easy to get used to. There was nothing to do but eat, sleep, and play—there was no work or chores, except for the 3 p.m. gathering in the hall where we would watch static for an hour. From the outside world, where I was told that no one in the cage ever saw the light of day, I was given plenty of sunlight within the confinement. So perhaps, they were right. Still, why did they laugh at my desire for more?

“You don’t know a lot, do you?” she asked. “You think this is a nightmare.”

“I had a life,” I stated. “I had parents and friends.”

“We had parents, too,” he said. “But they weren’t real. None of it was.”

I furrowed my brows.

“Don’t worry,” he added. “One day, they’ll let you out again. You’ll get new parents and new friends… if that’s what you want.”

What were they talking about? Was I missing a memo? Not once did any of the guards offer me a chance to leave. 

“But, you’ll be lucky if they don’t let you out,” she said. “If they do, the cycle will repeat itself. And it kind of sucks, trust me.”

I couldn’t grasp their words—it was a strange notion that the life I knew was fake. But even more difficult to comprehend was wanting to stay, when there was a chance of a new life beyond the cage. Little did I know, they were right. Three weeks later, I was free.

The choice was a vicious cycle. At the end of every experiment, I would wish for a freedom I already had. I would ask the same questions, frown at the same notion, and realise the truth of my predicament a little too late. I would return to the test tube over and over again—unable to change my mind, before I lost all recollection of what was.

Funny, how I once thought it was a tragedy—to be trapped by fate and robbed of a future. But the true tragedy was a joke—a joke on whoever believed that that… was all what life truly was.


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Mortal [12 Genre Months]

In a time much like our own, there lived a king who long believed that nothing—not famine, plague, nor disaster—could befall his nation. It was a notion ingrained into his very being—a promise from the Gods that all of him and his possessions were blessed by the heavens. But despite the promise being true—where the king could have led a rich and full life—he soon met his demise… in the hands of his own.

Some believed that it was the first born son who had murdered the king. The stubborn and proud warrior, who had his birthright revoked, had plotted to usurp the throne. And those who admired the unlawful crown prince became accomplices in the coup—believing that the royalty they served was valiant, bold, and fearless. Alas, not all of this is true—the prince failed to procure the throne, let alone any support from the people. And most unfortunately, he was neither living nor valiant at the time of the king’s death.

Without evidence to find the prince guilty, those who swore on the prince’s innocence shifted their arguments to the king’s sister instead—that the graceful princess had committed fratricide in a moment of anger. But how could the gentle, poised, and well-loved royalty commit such an atrocity? Many believed that it was unintentional—that in that very moment, she lost all control of her being and mind, and reacted on her primal nature. Alas, some of this is true—the princess often defaulted to fear. And when faced with a threat, her actions were for her own. Still, there was no proof to accuse her of murder—at the hour of the king’s death, the princess was seen retreating to her bedchamber with baskets full of bread.

With the other royals seemingly faultless, there was much to say about the people in the king’s court—men and women with motive and reason. Unfortunately, the king had died in an odd circumstance—one would say it was the doing of the Gods. Cold and un-moving in his bed, there was no breath in his lungs when his Royal Advisors came to see him. And after a close examination to find the cause, there was none. Thus, it became a blame-game of who had done it and why. But one thing was certain, the king died in the hands of his own.

In his ignorance, that the kingdom and his people were at his feet, he failed to see that he was human too. His eyes had been set above all others—blinded by the promise made at his birth. Alas, blessed or cursed, chosen or neglected, ignorance knows no difference. And when the world began to crumble around the king through a plague, it was too late—it had struck his heart, with no one else to blame but himself.

In a time much like our own, there lived a man who had forgotten who he was—a mere mortal in seasons of famine, plague, and disaster. And though he thought himself untouchable, he soon learned that mortality made all men equal.


In light of the recent events, I’d like to urge every reader to wash your hands often and stay home if you’re feeling unwell. If your country has issued a lock-down/movement control, please abide by the law. We are all mortals. And our actions do not simply affect ourselves but those around us too. So let’s choose wisdom, especially so in this season, over ignorance and pride.

12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Glamour [12 Genre Months]

“Glamour,” she said. “That’s how they got out.”

“Glamour,” I echoed with a frown.

It had come down to this—banned magic that would have me expelled from the academy—magic that was forbidden since the Dark Ages. Alas, it was the only option left—if I wished to return home and see my family, it was a risk I had to take.

“Do you know where they got it?” I prompted.

Her lips parted—she knew. Unfortunately, hesitation kept her answer at bay.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked. “I mean, you can always stay until they find a vaccine.”

“Vaccine?” I shook my head. “What difference will a vaccine make with that thing on the loose?”

No vaccine nor miracle cure could undo what had been done—even if the greatest scientists could put a stop to the plague, the real monster had been unleashed. A dark and malevolent creature—that fed off fear and paranoia—had resurfaced, and there was no escaping its vengeful presence.

“Once everything returns to normal, the Court of Magicians will bind the creature,” she said. “We just have to be patient.”

“No, I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as that,” I replied. “I don’t think we can just put it back.”

Upon the announcement of the city lock-down, the nesting creature broke free from its spellbound chains. Once restrained by the facade of peace, it now roamed the streets—its shadow latching onto any soul that it deemed as a perfect host. With growing dominance, none of us were spared from its curse—either as a vessel of it’s evil spirit or a victim of its influence.

“This isn’t the first time,” she insisted. “The court knows what to do.”

“Yes, but it’s stronger now. Can’t you feel it?”

The new plague had granted the creature more power than before—unforeseen strength to reach across borders and swallow the earth whole. Unlike its previous escapes, it stirred discord and animosity on a grander scale—feasting on even those who had encountered death from the plague itself. Hence, I had to resort to the Glamour.

“But that-”

“Just tell me where they got the Glamour,” I interrupted.

I knew that she cared for me—that she didn’t want to lose yet another friend. Unfortunately, she failed to see my reality. Despite guarding her youthful soul from the creature’s dark influence, she couldn’t fully grasp the predicament I was in.

“You don’t even know how to cast a Glamour,” she replied.

“I’ll find out how,” I stated.

She grunted in exasperation. “Okay, fine, let’s say you successfully cast a Glamour—at most, it’ll get you across the border. It’s not going to last long enough for you to get home.”

“That’s all I need—I just need to cross the border.”

Truthfully, I hadn’t thought the idea through—it was the first time I had a feasible plan. Hence, I intended to solve any hiccups along the way. After all, I was the top of my class.

“And then what?” she asked. “If the authorities catch you, you’ll be quarantined. You’ll be worse off than you are now.”

“Well, they can’t keep me for long. They’ll have to let me go soon enough,” I stated.

“They’ve kept people on ships… for months.”

“Well, that’s because they were infected—I’m not infected. So they will eventually let me go,” I replied, withholding not my growing irritation.

“Fine. But what are you going to do once the academy finds out, huh?” she challenged. “You worked so hard for the scholarship, casting the Glamour will have you expelled with no appeal.”

“Then, I won’t get caught.”

“No,” she huffed. “I won’t let you do it. I’m sorry, but I don’t know where they got the Glamour.”

“You’re lying,” I replied, as I narrowed my gaze. “Do you know what it’s like to be here—where the creature has its claws in almost everyone?”

She frowned before turning away from me.

“You don’t,” I continued. “You don’t know what it’s like to be accused of being a carrier, to be called derogatory names, to be afraid of being assaulted simply because of your origins. So if I have to cast a spell to change my damned appearance, just to get home and be with my family, I will.”

She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry. I-”

“I’m going to do it whether you help me or not,” I interrupted. Surely, with a little digging, I could find the source of such magic. If only… I didn’t have to do it alone.

“Fine, do it,” she said. “But… I’ll get the Glamour for you.”

“You will?” I raised a brow.

“Yes. And I’m coming with.”


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

Rebirth [12 Genre Months]

Once upon a time—a story always begins. The same four words that captures a child’s curiosity upon utterance—the opening to many stories, folklore, and legends. Alas, there was one beginning that commenced differently. It was a beginning that came forth once every five-hundred years—a beginning that repeated itself over, and over, and over again. For upon its very first once upon a time, there would never be an end—a fictional happily ever after that ceased to exist.

I was twelve-years-young when my mother told me the story. It began as a tale of a great adventure, where the hero traversed the golden dunes in the North Desert in search of the Fountain of Youth. It was said that beneath the great sea of sand was a cave—one that would rise above the earth when a mortal, worthy of its gift, should stumble upon it. And, like every other story, the hero had been worthy since birth. Still, it took the hero thirty-seven years to face his destiny—he had just turned sixty when he uncovered his calling.

It was a fateful evening when the ground shuddered and groaned. A rocky chamber emerged before the hero’s aging eyes, striking him in wonder and awe. It’s iron-grey accents, disparate to the surrounding topography, revealed a winding hollow that descended into the earth. And, the hero had no reservations. He strode into the mouth of the colossal chamber, leaving the world at the foot of the cave.

As the uneven and slippery path led him into the abyss, the hero soon found himself out of light’s reach. But in that darkness, where the hero thought of assembling a torch, he heard a disembodied voice—it asked a simple question with a deep resonance that reverberated through his bones.

“What do you seek?” The ghostly echoes of the question sent a shiver down his spine.

‘What do I seek?’ the hero thought to himself. The answer was easy. The hero had long sought for one thing and one thing alone—it was the reason for his quest, and it was the very thing the cave was said to offer. So the hero replied, “I seek what you promised.”

Just as the hero uttered those words, the cave trembled. And almost immediately, the hero hesitated—should he stay or should he run for his life? Then realising how he had wasted many years for that very moment, the hero stood his ground. And at the resolution, the trembling ceased.

Silence and darkness reigned. A nothingness prolonged—seemingly perpetual to warrant a response. But before a word left the hero’s lips, a faint light flickered in the hollow up ahead. It drew nearer and nearer, until the hero could see its very form—a ball of light akin to the sun.

Again, the hero was uncertain—should he embrace the fiery orb or step out of its way? Was it the gift he had longed for or a curse of death? The hero chose to remain. And as he closed his eyes in expectation of the magical light, the hero felt a warm sensation entering his chest. The comforting heat extended to every inch of his body. Then, it dissipated—its heat lifting from his being as a cold draft stirred around him. As the gift was dispensed, the voice returned.

“You will live for a thousand years, and a thousand more. Never will you meet death.”

Thus, the end of the story—the closure that every mother offered as she tucked her children to sleep. Alas, that wasn’t the end. I would know, as I went on the same adventure, only to discover that the story never ended there.

Unlike the hero, I wandered a few years short of twenty. I thought myself lucky—having not to spend another night in the soulless desert as a mortal. But as I uttered the words of the hero and embraced the gift, I came upon the part of the story that diverged. Oh, how I had hoped for a warm and comforting sensation in my being. Oh, if only the legend was true. Alas, the gift was a curse.

As soon as the fiery orb nestled in my chest, an eruption of raging heat burst forth. A searing sensation scorched my skin from the inside out. And before my very eyes, ash rose from my being. I thought I was dying—I felt myself die. To my dismay, I was still alive. When the pain eventually ceased, I could no longer feel my body. The only sensation that remained was an unending fire that stirred within.

“You will live for a thousand years, and a thousand more. Never will you meet death,” the voice said.

It was too late then. I would have renounced the gift but I had lost my voice. No longer was I mortal. I had become the sun. And I was destined to grace the skies for all of eternity—to live as a mythical creature that would be reborn in its own ashes over, and over, and over again. Thus… once upon a time, at every quincentenary, my story continues.


12 Genre Months © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Original Works

The Winter Raven [12 Genre Months]

Every year, at the arrival of the winter festivities, there came a call for the bravehearts—the warriors of hope, the heroes of peace, and the defenders of faith. A call that was sent to the chosen few—a call that came as a raven, perched on my window sill. Little did I know, being chosen meant that Christmas would never be the same again.

“Mum!” I called from my bedroom. “There’s a bird on my window. And it won’t fly away.”

I was an ordinary nine-year-old, who had just attempted to shoo the feathered creature with a pillow. Alas, it stood stock-still with unwavering determination to accomplish its task.

“What bird?” my mother replied as she strolled in. After a quick glance around the room, she headed to the window to pull it shut. “How many times do I have to tell you to close the window before bed?”

“The bird,” I merely replied.

My mother shook her head as she turned toward me. Believing that she had dealt with the raven, I slipped under the warm comforter—ready to call it a night. Alas, night had only just begun. Once my mother bade goodnight, flicking the lights off as she did, I heard an echo of a deep raspy caw. It sounded almost ghost-like—not of an actual bird. And when I couldn’t ignore it any longer, I sat up and looked at the window.

There it was—on my window sill with an illuminating purple gem between its beaks. It bore no gifts earlier and I hesitated. Was it safe to approach the creature? But as a curious child—who still believed that there was magic in the world—the glowing stone was the perfect bait. Slipping out of my bed, I went to the avian messenger to unknowingly accept my heroes calling.

That night, the cut and polished stone determined my fate. For the next three years of my life—on the fifth of every December—my raven would return. I would take the stone from its beak and glimpse into the chaos of the world—the invisible monsters with life-sucking fangs and soul-crushing claws that sought to destroy the remaining hope of the year. These otherworldly beasts roamed the streets and entered homes in search of unsuspecting victims. And it was my mission to stop them from destroying my slumbering neighbourhood.

Who would have thought that a child could be a hero? I was nine-years-old when I was gifted the light—the radiant and blinding amber of hope that beamed from the palms of my small hands. It was the light that kept my family and friends safe. It was the light that made me the unsung hero. And though it meant that Christmas was when the monsters of my nightmares came to life, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. For when I turned thirteen, the messenger went to another child.

At thirteen, I knew that my quest was over. Still, I couldn’t forget. And every night since, I would wonder about the shadows of humanity—was there an eldritch spectre outside my bedroom door? Unfortunately, it was no longer up to me to save the day. Another hero had been chosen—a reality I had accepted until my own child spoke of a bird on a chilly December night.

“Dad!” she called from her bedroom. “There’s a bird on my window. And it won’t fly away.”

“A bird?” I asked as I entered her room. Turning to her opened window, where I saw no avian creature, I frowned. “What bird?”

“There.” She pointed at the vacant space within the window frame. “It’s just… looking at me,” she added.

It had been over twenty years since my own encounter. And I would have shut the window—just like my mother did mine—if not for the strange inkling to keep it open.

“Dad, can you close the window?” she prompted. And therein, I remembered.

“It won’t hurt you,” I said. Crouching by the side of her bed, I continued, “But if it has a stone in its beak, you have to take it.”

“There’s no stone,” she stated.

“Not yet.” I winked.

“Okay. But what does the stone do?”

“It makes you a hero,” I replied. “It’ll make you brave. And even if the monsters scare you, you’ll be strong enough to destroy them.”

“Okay, dad.”

“Goodnight, Hope,” I said.

Flicking her bedroom lights off, I could only wonder if it were all true. I had grown to doubt. Still, I found a hint of belief. And if there was one gift I could offer my child this Christmas, it was to help her uncover the superhero within.


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

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