These entries from September's challenge were selected as Honorable Mentions. Those who completed this challenge are now encouraged to share their stories in the comments section of the "September Writing Challenge."
The rising light reflects off of the broken glass that decorates the hardwood floor. Its pieces enhance the light in the room with varying shades, and a soft glow gives a warm feeling to the silence of the room. The quiet ticking of a clock is the only noise that can be heard for miles. It is the only sign, besides the rising sun, that time still continues. No voices hum along to the beginnings of the bird songs nearby that have intertwined themselves through the branches of the dying trees. As the darkness continues to fade, so do the frustrated screams and cries, the loud arguing voices disappearing with the chill of the morning wind. It becomes an echo of the past, long forgotten. In this moment, the world is at peace. The shattering sound of the mirror being destroyed and punished as the screams got louder, forgotten to the world. The only remembrance of the night before was the mesmerizing artwork of light that now adorns the white walls of the room.
The sound of light footsteps interrupts the peaceful silence, disturbing the calmness in the air. The small whisper of movement is unsure, the memories becoming more present as the footsteps get louder. The door opens slowly with a groan, and the first thing she sees is the glass, halting her movements. She observes the room quietly, looking at the trophies that sit proudly on her shelves. She walks toward the window that has sat opened since the night before, letting every sound travel outside to the sky and stars. She watches silently as the sun continues to rise, illuminating the changing colors of the leaves. Her face gives away no expression. She can still feel the mascara that had run down her face along with her tears, which is now dry and uncomfortable. As the wind pushes against her small form, making its way into the room through the open window, she closes her eyes. She lets her thoughts leave her physical mind, and they travel through the air, joining the wind in its adventure. After a few moments, she opens her eyes and turns and walks towards the broken mirror. Her feet walk through the glass, crunching beneath her and disrupting the light that reflects off of it. Her body is numb, immune to her physical pain.
She stands in front of the mirror, and now she can truly see the pain she carries in her reflection. Her hair cascades limply down her shoulders to her waist, the color fading. Her clothes are wrinkled and hang loosely on her, swallowing her. Her bare feet, numb and covered in dirt and scars. She directs her eyes back onto her face, taking in her lips that are smeared with dark red lipstick. Her mascara-filled tears now dry, creating black lines that run down towards her lips that don’t hold a smile or a frown. Her eye shadow, no longer blended to perfection, now creates a hollow feeling to her eyes. Her eyes are dim, lifeless. They hold no warmth, no calculating gaze, no story, they just are. She looks over her appearance once more before turning, the glass beneath her scraping the delicate skin of her feet in disapproval.
She walks to the shelf that carries her trophies triumphantly. Her fingers graze each of them lightly, brushing the cool metal against her fingertips. She walks slowly, studying each one. She stops and, before she can stop herself, she delicately picks up one of her many crowns. Her touch is as light as a feather as she turns the crown over in her hands, observing the different details that decorate it. She turns once again and finds her way back to the mirror, setting the crown atop her head while doing so. Standing once again in front of her mirror, wearing the crown, she now looks at her reflection as if she’s looking for something. Her eyes move over her body multiple times, searching for her answer, a clue.
She steps back, and the stinging pain of glass cutting into her skin seems to awaken her. Her eyes, no longer asleep, wake with tears. She lets out a strangled sob and backs away from the mirror, letting out more cries of pain and anguish. She rips the crown off her head as if it has burned her. She holds it in front of her in silence. In those few seconds, she lets the silence consume her. She welcomes it, but the ticking of the clock pushes its way through the quiet, and she screams. Her strangled cries echo around the room loudly as they are carried through the wind, the shattering sound of the crown being thrown at the clock destroying any tranquility that was left.
The Crown Won’t Slip
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The sound of a beating heart is magical. It’s one of those ‘things’ that reminds me that I’m not dead. At least not in the way a dead person is supposed to be. But there’s not much of a difference between me and the dead.
They’re remembered in memories.
I’m remembered in nightmares.
I’m a queen — a rather deceitful word for a murderer. The silvery, adorned crown sits on my head. Its sharp edges cut me like blades. Each stab brings in names — names that had to be taken down for this trophy. Trophy that comes with pain.
The maid swirls hastily in the room, careful not to look me in the eye. She does my hair, her hands steady, then she quickly moves to do my makeup to hide the monster I am. Even when she does it all, her fingers barely touch my skin.
You’ll have to do it. Today.
“My lady.” Another girl, not more than thirteen, comes and bows. “The time is nigh.”
I wonder who taught her to lower her head in shame. All I do is nod. The maid finishes up her work on me and steps back, not sparing herself a moment to breathe.
I search myself for some nameless thing. The maid seems to know what. She rushes to a wooden table, fetches it, and hands it to me. My fingers curl around the small object, its hands pointing to the hour. The time has come.
I breathe in heavily.
The little girl waits in the corner.
She nods and flees.
Before I follow her to the world outside, the maid fetches one last thing. She hands it to me, and only then I notice her shaking. I let out another breath, take it from her, and turn it over.
The girl in the reflection is not someone I recognise. I tell myself it’s not me, just another person. But the more I stare at her, the more familiar she becomes until it’s hard to look without flinching. It slips from my hand, shattering into a million pieces. This is what my future will be if I don’t do what I must do, even though it’ll cost me my love.
“Lady. He’s here.”
I nod. A guilt comes over me as I walk out of the room.
You must sacrifice your love for the throne.
I can already feel the most painful stab of this gleaming, deadly crown.
Clocks and Mirrors
She followed me downtown yesterday.
I do not know her name, and she was utterly filthy, her once-blue dress hanging like torn flesh from pale, hungry bones. But I listened as her scuffed shoes skipped along the sidewalk. When I turned, I glimpsed a clock in her hand and a crescent moon of a smile gracing her dirty face.
Her face follows me everywhere.
I do not know her name, but I know she must be special. After all, her picture hangs in the front window of every store downtown. My favorite store has her front and center; it’s a giant painting, and I can see every detail — her wispy hair, her picturesque figure. The mirrors around her even enhance her beauty, and I am dazzled by the millions of reflections sparkling her crown as if they are real diamonds. But even in her splendor, nothing can make her smile. So I smile into the mirrors, hoping one day mine will appear on her flawless face.
I wish I could stay near the mirrors all day, taking in the reflections that I only see once a week when I come to town. Instead, I must hurry before the market closes. Mama and my brother would be mad if I didn’t bring home the bread and eggs. My brother is always hungry and sometimes steals my food. Sometimes I let him and don’t tell Mama. He is bigger than me, and I think he needs it more. He works hard too. I think about these things when I go to market, even though it’s scary. Amid a multitude of towering people, I feel small, like a little mouse that might get stepped on. But I am brave because it is not for me. It’s for my family.
It’s hard to carry bread and eggs when you only have a clock in one hand. Mama tells me not to take it to market, but it comforts me. It’s a piece of home in a daunting place. It also helps me remember not to waste time looking in the windows — they are much prettier and cleaner than any in my town. But mostly, my clock reminds me that each second is passing and you can’t ever get it back. Each second is precious, and I’ve got to use as many as I can to help my Mama.
Walking home from the market can be difficult because it is so big; sometimes I get lost. Long legs in grey pants, muddy boots, and loud voices meld into a distorted maze, and I am no longer small enough to hide under the fruit stands. Someone bumps into me, and the clock tumbles into a muddy gutter. I am not worried; it was already dented from the time my brother threw it like a baseball, and anyway, it’s better the eggs stayed intact. Carefully setting the food aside, I pick up the clock with hesitant fingers and wipe the grime on the hem of my dress. I scurry from the market and down the long but wonderful road of shop windows. My clock has stopped ticking — I think it’s finally broken — but I take one last second to look at my favorite window. The sun is beginning to set, and the mirrors catch each drop of golden light. For a second, the girl in the painting has rosy cheeks and a hint of a smile. I am glad.
The men are walking home all around me. I can hear voices and footsteps. Many are reading the newspaper, and I listen. A lot about stocks, cows, politics…no wonder I never listened. But then I hear a brassy voice say, “They’re starting to consider lifeboat ethics. Might help to control our overpopulation problem.” They walk away as I stand still, thinking. I don’t know what ethics are, I’m only seven. But a lifeboat sounds good. No, it sounds wonderful. Finally, something to save my family from the dirt we are living in. Maybe it will take us across the river; maybe they’ll even have a real house for us there.
When I turn back to the window, the reflections are gone and she is not smiling anymore. But I am smiling; I am hopeful.
I saw the little girl again today, the one in the dirty blue dress. She was staring at the painting of me for a long time, and she was smiling, bigger than ever. She must not know what’s going to happen. It wasn’t my decision to take everything from the poor and let them die. Maybe it’ll solve the overpopulation problem, but is that good enough? Is it right to make them suffer more if it means our burden is lighter? I wish I could help that little girl. She makes me smile.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock
I’m running out of time
Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock
It’s just a simple crime.
Time moves very quickly
I’m staring at the clock
My heart starts beating very fast
When there’s a sudden knock.
I guess this is my cue
I open right away
And just like that, I know it’s time
For me to come and play.
I lift my chin up high
I wear my smile and bow
And as they guide me through the halls
I think of you somehow.
I think of all those days
Of how I’d always feel
Whenever you would hold my hand
I knew our love was real.
I knew I loved you then
I knew I always would
I thought for sure that we could be
But you were all too good.
You treated me so well
Your heart was all too pure
And you have shown me such a love
I’ve never seen before.
They opened up the door
That led me to your bed
I walked so slow and found you there
You lay at peace and dead.
I needed not pretend
To cry, it was not hard
It was not acting, it was real
My heart was truly scarred.
I poisoned him myself
I made him drink that wine
That knocked the life right out of him
The fault and pain was mine.
Today is the big day
Right now I stand with pride
I smile as I put on my crown
With Snow White at my side.
This young girl here just smiles
But right behind that grin
I see what others may ignore
Her perfect little sin.
Who made me wear that crown?
Who wanted to be free?
Who wanted to look innocent?
And pin the blame on me.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who’s the fairest of them all?
If she shall refuse my call
Then I must await her fall.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock
I’m running out of time
Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock
It’s just a simple crime.