Fifteen Minute Ficlets (#15MF) is a weekly Sunday writing challenge hosted here on The Literary Phoenix. Based on a single word, write a short story in fifteen minutes. The word count is irrelevant. Just write your heart out for 15 minutes and be inspired by the word. You never know what you’ll end up with!
1. feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
2. a long and severe recession in an economy or market.
Nautice held the bundled child close to her chest and step out into the frosted morning. The soft yellow sun peeped over the horizon, but its warmth could not permeate this wasteland. In the field, rotted wheat waved and sparkled, victim to the ice crystals blossomed on its stalks. She shivered.
The headscarf she wore did little to fight against the elements. She gave her warmest to the infant, wrapping it against so that it had extra protection against the wintery chill. Left to her own choices, the cook would not bring the babe out into the cold, but today had to be an exception.
Just beyond the field, she saw the men gathered, their shoulders hunched forward, discarded shovels to their sides. Frozen grass crackled beneath her soft leather shoes. The child in her arms rustled but remained asleep. Nautice bent down and kissed his forehead softly. Poor thing.
When she joined them, the men nodded respectfully to her, casting their eyes away quickly when they saw the bundle she carried. She knew them all by name – Elias, Venya, Asorus. They were the strong, able-bodied men who came to work the harvest each year, and had for as long as Nautice could remember. Each one of them in their time had snuck into her kitchen to beg an extra honey bun for their wife or child. Venya’s wife was expecting now – Nautice wondered what fear must be burning in his chest today. Did he see his own love’s fate in Dalia’s peaceful face?
A wave of depression washed over her. Tears sprung from her eyes and flowed freely as the ache in her chest squirmed free. She clutched the baby tighter, almost too tight. This was not a fair fate for a young mother.
The gauze-wrapped body called Nautice’s eyes to it. Tightly bound, she did not resemble the spirited young woman that Nautice had grown up with, as a sister. The curve of her wide hips, the little bump of a nose – all of it became anonymous in her burial shroud. Chills tingled up her spine, unrelated to the cold. The infant woke with a small, gasping cry. Poor thing. He needed his mother, and Nautice was a poor substitute.
A hand fell on her shoulder. “Let me hold him?” a kind voice asked. Relieved, Nautice handed the wailing child to his aunt, and Ella held him gingerly, cooing. At her side, the tall, skinny Siuan man stared out over the horizon, hands in his pockets.
“It is a fitting day for something sad,” he mused. “When my mother died, it was a beautiful summer afternoon. Winter suits funerals.”
If it had been anyone else, the indifference in his voice would have shocked her, but Simon was cold and awkward. He was the only Siuan man she had ever met, and she wondered if they were all so flat. She didn’t tell him it was nearly the end of summer in Sorelia.
The frost and snow was grieving of another sort.
Nautice thought of the child’s father. The mage loved Dalia more than life itself. This was his sadness, his tribute to her. She wondered if he would come to the graveside.
This is a story I’m not working on, and will probably never edit. So why write a short story in its universe? ELEMENT was co-written with a friend as a high school project about a world that is cut in two between technology and magic. It deals with issues of racism (again magic users), environment (Siuan has only one small reserve of living plants and must import all foods), and love. I still think it’s one of the best plots and most interesting things I’ve ever (co)written, but I’ve lost contact with my partner and since it’s half hers… all I can do it keep the story we have.
To join, link up in the comments below with the URL to your blog POST (not your blog), and I will make sure that you get added to the post!
Remember to read everyone’s ficlets, and to have fun! 🙂