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

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

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.)