I'm a writer because I have stage fright.
As most of you know, I am an avid follower of Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds blog. There was a flash fiction challenge posted recently where the participants first came up with a one sentence opening and then picked someone else’s opening line to create a story. I chose coolerbs sentence:
“On the day that you’re destined to die they serve cake, with exactly thirteen candles.”
This is a very interesting sentence employing the use of second person perspective. This is one of the most challenging perspectives, so naturally I had to try it. Also, because it is October, I’d thought I’d try my hand at a horror piece. So, please enjoy my rough, unedited work (like any work on this blog).
Your Fate Has Been Determined
By L. N. Holmes (first sentence by Brandon Scott)
On the day that you’re destined to die, they serve cake with exactly thirteen candles. The cake sits on the dinning room table like a sacred monument — untouched and shiny. Its interior is chocolate and the outside is coated with coconut icing. You don’t like coconut, but you do like chocolate, and as a twin you have to compromise.
The cake is dense and bland and the party is boring. There are thirteen balloons of black and white tied to the chairs around the house. Sunlight lights the interior with a white glow, dimmed only by the deepest recesses of the house. Your mother invited all four of your friends from school, but they don’t understand the significance of this day.
Your parents are trying to stay calm.
Your mother, aspiring to perfect the housewife image in the age of rejected gender roles, serves goodie bags with crocheted keychains and handmade chocolates. She refuses to talk to you or your sister about the fortuneteller’s prediction. Instead, she insists you play the game of musical chairs in the living room with your friends. She does not understand the necessary transitional period from a child to an adult known as “the teenager.” You are unsure if you understand it either, but you know it does not involve playing musical chairs.
Your father smokes his pipe and keeps his revolver hidden under a cloth napkin. The smell of his tobacco is simultaneously fragrant and offensive, like a fruit beginning to rot. You tell your father you don’t want to die. He tells you he won’t let that happen.
Your sister is the only one who will discuss the fortuneteller’s prediction. When you were younger, your parents would recite it over and over in the kitchen after they thought you’d gone to bed. Instead, you and your sister eavesdropped. By now, you both have it memorized.
On the eve of your thirteenth birthday, one will live and one will die. The blessing of duality is a concealed curse. You were meant to have one soul, but you’ve stolen another. As punishment, the second born must give up the extra soul and return it to its original owner.
Your sister was born seven minutes before you. You are the one destined to give up your soul. You do not know what to expect. The fortuneteller did not elaborate on the nature of your death. One thing you do know is that the fortuneteller has never been wrong.
As per tradition, you and your sister had your destiny foretold at the age of six by Madam Velicrux. You met the woman, an elderly lady and a survivor of the Fall of Humanity, in her mansion-sized striped tent in the middle of town. She was the most revered and most feared woman in the entire province. Her power exceeded those of masters and kings, emperors and lords, for she knew the future and thus held their lives in her hands.
You remember the tent smelled of incense. It was overpowering, like the prostitutes wearing too much perfume on the street corners. There were servants in bright clothing appearing and disappearing amongst the folds of fabric. A man in a red and purple pinstripe suit escorted you through a makeshift hallway in the midst of the sectioned off tent until you arrived at a large area of space filled with rugs, standing mirrors, and candles. A table made of polished, dark wood sat in the middle of the room with a crystal ball on top of it and wooden chairs surrounding it.
Madam Velicrux sat on the opposite side of the table in a plush, red chair. Her hair was grey with streaks of white and pulled into a neat bun at the back of her neck. She wore a tiny red hat positioned at the topmost part of her head. Her lips were painted the color of congealed blood and her eyelids a plum purple. She gestured for you and your family to sit, her loose skin jiggling in the candlelight.
“Welcome,” she said. Her voice sounded omniscient, her tone foreboding. “Let us begin.”
You sat down beside your sister, with your parents occupying the remaining chairs.
Madam Velicrux moved her pointer finger on her right hand in a circle motion on top of the crystal ball. “Yes, I already see something. The twins — I feel a powerful energy from you.”
“What does that mean?” your mother asked. She was sitting with perfect posture in her chair, her eyes glassy, her smile frozen.
“Yes, go on,” your father said, impatient.
It was then that you heard the prophecy for the first time. Madam Velicrux pointed at you like you were a criminal of the spiritual world. You had seven years to live before taking back what you stole.
Now, as you watch the sun set outside the window with your family, you wait for your demise. Your friends are gone. Your sister holds your hand.
“Prophecy only works if you believe in it,” your mother says. “So let’s try not to think of it.”
“We are the masters of our fate,” your father says. You see the knuckles of his hand are white as he grips the revolver.
The doorbell rings. Your mother screams, but your sister runs to answer it. Madam Velicrux is at the door. She is wearing a gown of black velvet.
“It is time, my child, to give up your soul,” she says.
“No, no, this can’t be,” your mother pleads.
“We won’t let you,” your father says.
Your sister tries to close the door. It is blown back by some unknown force. Madam Velicrux enters. She is as pale as a ghost and moves like one. She glides over to you, her smile like the jagged grin of a jack-o-lantern. “Madam Velicrux is never wrong,” she says, “but occasionally, I do bend the truth.”
“What do you mean?” you ask, your back against the window.
“You did not steal a soul,” she said, “but I am going to steal yours.”
© L. N. Holmes (LeeAnn Adams)