Original Works

Puteri & The Frog [12 Genre Months]

Once upon a time, there lived a princess in a white-bricked, two-storey house, complete with a shaded front porch and a tiddly garden. She had light brown eyes, thin lips, and a sprinkle of freckles—a reflection of innocence on her small, youthful face, framed by her short dark brown locks from her mixed heritage. She was like every other child, except for her name—her mother called her Puteri.

Puteri’s favourite past-time was an evening in the neighbourhood park—a gathering ground for the city-dwelling children to be one with Mother Nature. Every Friday, Puteri would bring her golden ball to the field, adjacent to a lotus pond, to toss, kick, and bounce. As she wasn’t very fond of the playground’s swings and slides, Puteri preferred her more solitude activity away from the other children. But on one fateful evening, to her dismay, her golden ball went bouncing into the still water.

“Do you need a hand?” a voice asked.

Puteri hadn’t noticed anyone else around—jumping startled at the sudden intrusion of her quiet playtime. Looking up from where her golden ball had disappeared into, she saw the owner of the voice—he stood across the pond with wide curious eyes, as though he’d never seen a girl before.

“Yes,” Puteri replied. “Can you retrieve my ball for me?”

“If I do so, will you be my friend?” he asked.

“Why do you need a friend?” Puteri frowned. She didn’t understand why friends were important—she enjoyed her own company and that alone was enough.

“I don’t like playing by myself,” he said.

“I do,” Puteri stated. “But if you don’t like playing by yourself, why don’t you go and make friends?”

“No one will play with me.”

“I see.” Puteri had no interest in being the strange creature’s friend, but she didn’t want to wade through the dark water either. So, for the sake of her beloved golden ball, she said, “I’ll be your friend if you retrieve my ball.”

“You will?” He beamed.

“Yes.” Puteri nodded and pointed to where her ball had sunken. “It’s somewhere over there.”

“At your service, princess,” he replied, promptly entering the pond.

The still water wasn’t as deep as Puteri had imagined—her imagination often wilder than her dreams. Once she was handed her golden ball, Puteri said, “Thank you.” Not waiting for a response, she promptly turned on her heel—ready to break her promise.

“Wait,” he said. “Aren’t you going to play with me?”

“Maybe next week,” Puteri hastily replied, before running home.

Puteri hoped to never see the frog again—his big round eyes, Cheshire-like grin, and stubby frame were perhaps the reasons why he had no friends. Alas, when the next Friday rolled around, there he was again.

“Hi,” he said, with a wide smile. “Do you want to play?”

“I-”

“You promised,” he said.

“I didn’t promise anything. I said, maybe,” Puteri stated.

“But you said you’ll be my friend,” he insisted. “We can toss your ball, and if it falls into the pond again, I’ll get it for you.”

Puteri hesitated. Then seeing how his excitement began to turn into disappointment—the mien of a broken heart—she said, “Fine. One game. Just one game.”

“Thank you,” he said. “We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.”

Puteri nodded and tossed him her golden ball. For a while, the two played without a word—the golden ball bouncing back and forth, while the shouts and laughter of the other children filled the silence. It was a bizarre game but Puteri slowly came to enjoy his company—simply having someone to toss the ball to brought comfort. And it was then that Puteri entertained the idea of keeping a friend—to have someone who truly wanted her around. Alas, before she could ask her first friend for his name, the clouds began to grumble.

“Puteri,” her handmaid called. “It’s going to rain. Let’s go home.”

“I have to go,” Puteri stated, just as her golden ball bounced into her arms.

“Next week?” he prompted

“Sure,” Puteri replied with a smile.

“Let’s go, Puteri,” her handmaid repeated, reaching for Puteri’s hand. “Who are you talking to?”

“My friend,” Puteri said.

“Your friend?” her handmaid asked, bewildered as she glanced around. “Where?”

Puteri pointed to the pond where he sat poised on a floating lotus leaf, bearing the same curious gaze as though he’d never seen a woman before.

“The frog?” her handmaid asked.

“Yes. He’s my friend.”

Her handmaid chuckled. “Frogs make good friends,” her handmaid said. “Come now.”

“Is mummy coming home for dinner?” Puteri asked. Her mother often encouraged her to make friends—it would excite her to learn that Puteri had actually made one.

“Not tonight, dear,” her handmaid said.

“And daddy?”

Her handmaid gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Maybe next week. Your mommy and daddy are very busy people.”

“I know.”

“You’ll have dinner with me tonight and we can talk all about your new friend, all right?”

Puteri nodded. She would rather have dinner with her friend, but she doubted her parents would let her bring him home. Though, would they notice if she did? They were rarely around. The only thing that was of them was the golden ball. And that itself was merely a reminder of their existence. At the very least, it made her… a friend.


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

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

Original Works

Search Future [12 Genre Months]

It’s not everyday that you’d stumble upon an odd feature on your web browser—the kind of feature that would, perhaps, make you wonder if it’s April Fools’ Day. After all, our technology couldn’t have possibly advanced in such a way. Or, at the very least, not in any capacity to question our reality.

“They haven’t rolled it out for everyone yet but I got the update this morning,” I said. “Have you?”

“Nope,” she replied. “Don’t tell me you think it’s legit.”

I chuckled—of course not. Not a single sentence of the user algorithm commentary, listed in the patch notes, made any sense. So perhaps, April Fools’ Day was really in August wherever the developers were from.

“Sounds pretty cool though,” I said. “I’ll play around tonight.”

That night, I allowed my browser to run the application update. It took ten seconds before a solid crimson ‘forward’ icon appeared beside my ‘ad block’ extension. Without any hesitation, I launched the feature. And instantly, a search engine page flicked to the front of my screen.

“Search future,” I read the minimalist block typography in its archetypal red. “All right. Juke Matthews,” I echoed, typing my name in the search column. Then, setting the date to a year from that evening itself, I hit enter.

About 59,300 results turned up in 0.46 seconds—majority of which weren’t me. There was ‘Juke Matthews the physicist’, ‘J. Matthews the science-fiction author’, but no ‘Juke Matthews the boring accountant’. What was I expecting? I wasn’t famous. I was a nobody. But perhaps, I wasn’t looking far enough. Deciding to change the date—fingers-crossed that one day I’d find recognition—I began scrolling through five years, ten years, twenty years, and even up to fifty years into the future. Alas, I never accomplished anything noteworthy to make it on the internet.

“Never mind that,” I assured myself. “Does this work with socials?” I furrowed my brows before excitement sparked at the wild possibility—could I peek into my future through my social media accounts?

On the same page, I pulled up my favourite platform and logged in. Expecting to see the familiar layout—of which I’ve spent most of my weekends staring into—I was briefly confused. Had I just logged into a bogus site? Did I foolishly give my login details away? A second later, it dawned upon me—this was my timeline ten years into the future. Surely, the interface would’ve updated. Ignoring the settling apprehension, I clicked into my profile.

“I have… a girlfriend?” I asked in disbelief. My profile picture had changed from the badly lit snapshot of me at my cluttered work desk to a vacation photo with a woman—a woman I had never seen before. Granted, our faces were barely distinguishable as we stood against the sun—the sandy beach and the deep blue ocean prominent in the background. “Not bad, Juke. I’m impressed.”

If the update was a prank, it did a great job at making me a fool. Oh, how I wished it was all true. Despite my lack of internet fame, I seemed to be doing all right in the future. Expecting to find myself further entertained, I scrolled down my profile.

There was a job update—“Ah, I got a promotion. I guess Aaron isn’t such a prick after all.” There was a picture of a black Labrador pup, presented as a gift with a pink ribbon tied around its neck—“Oh, I always wanted a dog.” There was an essay-long status about the ten things I was grateful for—“Wow, life sure is good.” And then… there was a picture from when I was a baby, cradled in my mother’s arms—the caption read, “We will never stop loving you.” That picture came right after another of an empty hospital bed—“Cancer?”

“Not funny,” I added. “Not cool.” I contemplated closing the page but curiosity kept me lingering. Even after the little voice in my head had warned me not to proceed, I still needed to know.

Down the timeline I went—one status update after another. But after eight years, I still couldn’t find a beginning. When was the diagnosis? Perhaps, it was too sensitive to publicise. Wondering if I should act on the information, I decided to give my mother a call. It was better to be safe than sorry.

Grabbing my phone, I dialed her number. The moment the phone line clicked, I said, “Mum? I need you to see a doctor this weekend.”

Silence lingered on the other end of the line. “Mum?” I repeated. “Can you hear me?”

“Who is this?” my mother asked.

“It’s me, mum. It’s Juke. I need you-”

“Whoever you are, this isn’t funny,” my mother replied.

“What are you talking about?”

“Goodbye,” my mother said, before promptly ending the call.

Bemused, I dialed her number again, and again, and again. Alas, not once did she pick up. Resorting to a message, I asked for an explanation—why was she acting strange? Did something happen? When my mother finally replied, after my twelfth line, she wrote, ‘My son is dead. Stop messaging me or I’ll call the police.’

I frowned. Did my mother change her number without informing me? Shaking my head, I contemplated calling my father. But before I did, a notification appeared on the screen before me.

“Your session will expire in sixty-seconds,” I read. “Click here to continue.” I clicked.

Upon the command, the page scrolled on its own—breezing past all posts and settling on a date. It was that day—the day I ran a poll to see who else had the browser update. The day right before a series of condolences filled my page—“We will miss you, Juke. You were a great friend.” The day my brother posted on my behalf for the first time—“Keeping this page alive in memory of Juke. Love you forever, bro.”

But who else had the new search engine feature? No one answered my poll—it was only me.


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

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

Original Works

The Man With The Missing Fingers [12 Genre Months]

Six weeks ago, he woke from his slumber to a missing thumb. It was the thumb on his right hand—the very thumb he sucked on as a child. But tomorrow, there would be a missing hand—a bizarre addition to the story he was once told. He didn’t expect it to get any stranger, despite having five fingers left⁠—two on his right and three on his left—exactly five days ago. He thought, what more could happen? Would he lose his toes too? How about his eyes, nose, and mouth? Alas, two months from yesterday, he would discover having no hands left. And from that day onward, he would begin to lose his toes too.

At twenty-four, she didn’t think fables and legends were real. Yet, she always thought they made for a good warning—a whimsical threat to put things and people in order. And so she would spend many hours scouring books for a worthy tale. Days and nights, years before and years after until finally, at the age of eighteen, she found the story of the man with the missing fingers. Who was the man, what was his name, and where did he come from—futile questions she didn’t ask. All that mattered was the day she turned thirty—the day she told him the story.

When he was seven years old, his mother told him about the man with the missing fingers. She had told him the same story when he was five, three, and even before he understood what words were for. The myth was rather nightmarish for a child—a man whose fingers disappeared overnight. But when he turned fifteen, he began to question his mother’s story—how could fingers disappear? Were fingers secretly magicians? Who stole those fingers? Unfortunately, despite his disbelief, his fate remained. On the morning of his thirtieth birthday, he found himself with nine fingers—a little finger had vanished from his left hand.

She thought that if she told him when he was old enough—at the acceptable age of fifty-two years young—he would change in his stubborn ways. Many legends had worked to her favour, alas the man with the missing fingers had failed. Why wouldn’t he believe? If only he did, he would still have all his fingers. If only he believed, he wouldn’t awake to the horror. It was strange that a man his age refused to accept the reality in her stories—didn’t wisdom come with age? To her dismay, she was left with a man now incapable of caring for himself. Oh, how she regretted—perhaps she should have told him later rather than sooner.

The man with the missing fingers lost all his fingers before he actually became a man. One would assume he was a man when he lost his fingers but that was a supposition made into gospel by those who retold his story. Now, if he could correct them, he would. Alas, after his toes had left him so did his mouth, nose, and eyes. How could he address the rumour, let alone add to the bizarre tale in his unfortunate state? How could he give a complete account of the plague that had struck him? And so the man with the missing fingers became a legend. He became a myth that was all too real for those who followed after him.

Six weeks ago, she woke from her slumber to a missing thumb—the same for all and for one. Sadly, before she could even utter the horrifying truth, there would be nothing left of her—nothing but the mind of a peculiar anthropoid. And that itself isn’t the end, for how truly frightening is the end, no one would ever know.


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

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

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.)