I is We (Furious Fiction Short Story)
55 hours. 500 words. 500 dollars.
On the first weekend of every month, you are invited to put your storytelling skills to the test in the ultimate writer-takes-all short story competition. Armed only with our simple brief, your job is to race the clock to come up with your best 500 words-or-fewer story and be in it to win a tasty $500 – every single month.
Your story must include a GIFT of some kind.
You story’s first sentence must contain only THREE WORDS.
You must use PALM, MATCH and ROSE.
I IS WE
Rose wanted it.
She’d had always wanted it. And what Rose wanted Aamira wanted. It was a strange match of wants.
‘I’ll do it.’ Aamira finally said. ‘The Gift of Helios.’
‘But you haven’t trained for it.’
‘Nobody trains for it, silly!’
And so Aamira found herself in her old gym leggings, tying up her white hair in a tight bun as an assortment of runners – bankers, lawyers, doctors, failed life coaches – limbered up before the race. They were competing not against each other, but time itself.
As the sun reached its apex, a tall gold column in the centre of the stadium, a gnomon, cast a thin triangular shadow across the racers on the sundial-track, triggering the starting gun.
The mass of bodies took off – backwards.
Heads craned to the left (for these were the rules) as competitors ran as fast as they could, trying to stay in their lane, trying not to tangle themselves in their own inelegant gait. However, before they got to the first turn, a large man in a shiny electric blue catsuit, fell flat on his back causing a Mexican wave of bodies to topple over him.
‘DISQUALIFIED’ boomed an announcement.
Aamira, with her corroded arthritic knees, limped past the pile, trailing after those who had managed to avoid it. It was by the tenth lap that Aamira started to move faster. The pain in her knees had finally vanished as she’d hoped, and while this relieved her greatly it wasn’t until she reached her forty-second lap, did she feel the electric thrill of energy. Aamira, for the first time in years, was actually running – albeit backwards.
With each successive lap, Aamira saw around her bellies shrinking, postures straightening, muscles firming, skin tightening and hair regrowing. By her sixtieth lap, Aamira was now her twenty-two-year-old self, her hair jet black, her face beautiful, her dark brown skin radiant. For a wistful moment, she thought of stopping. Some did stop.
But she had to keep running. She had to it do for Rose. She had to do it before the gnomon’s knife shadows had gone from on the sundial-track.
A sudden burst of adolescence quickened her pace, pimples exploding across her forehead like anti-aircraft fighter flak, before she noticed her pace slowing and the track growing and glowing. Adolescence had given away to shrinking childhood but also to light.
Aamira doubled her efforts, sprinting backwards through her childhood years until, as a stumbling toddler, she got distracted by a dead monarch butterfly on the track. Rose cried out and a whisper of Aamira’s older self awoke. Shadows blurring around her, she fell to her palms and knees, crawling through the first months of her life, until she could crawl no more – the temporal sundial had faded to black.
When she awoke Rose was swaddling her.
‘Thank you, Aamira,’ Rose cried. It was the happiest she’d been in years. ‘Thank you.’