So I don't write short stories very often. When our local non-profit writers organization, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, asked me to contribute a short story to their anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, I hesitated. I was in the middle of working on The Spirit Lens, and I only had one piece of a story in my trunk. I really wanted to support the organization, though, so right after I turned in The Spirit Lens, I pulled out the fragment and spent a little time with it. If I could finish the thing in a reasonable amount of time, I'd submit it. Otherwise I'd pass.
The story was mostly a voice. A girl's voice. She didn't even have a name. But she lived in a pretty nasty world, and her story would definitely fit the theme of the anthology. Every "link" she had was broken.
As it happened, I had a lot of fun with it - and to my surprise, I was able to tell a whole story within the guidelines of 5-6K words. Well, here's how this nameless girl introduced herself:
My parents never told me I had Talent. Perhaps they thought it undignified for the daughter of a city magistrate, or believed it might frighten me or make me insolent. Or maybe they just left it too late, and had the lack of consideration to die of plague before warning me.
Now don’t think me unfeeling, but when one is ten years old and the whole world is dying of plague, or slaughtering each other for fear of it, or taking flight to escape it, one has little time to mourn, or even to recall why one should. When civilization has erupted into chaos, the next meal looms much larger in importance than past grieving.
Six years I spent scrabbling in search of that next meal before I trudged up a rock-blasted hill and through the iron gate of Fenwick Priory. By that time I had seen far more of men and life than was really necessary, and taking up residence with a group of similarly exhausted women seemed sensible. The sisterhood grew vegetables, kept to themselves, and did no good works to speak of. I had no illusion that this would be a permanent situation. The sisters didn’t seem that agreeable, and entanglement of any sort made me want to cram a shiv in someone’s craw.
"You'll tend a plot, Girl," said the bony Prioress, licking the beaded honey from a suckle blossom grown right out of the crumbled courtyard wall. "Each of us has one."
"Don't know how," I said and scratched my itchy foot on a cracked step. "Not opposed, but I never learnt. My parents called planting hireling’s work. I’ll scrub for you. Fetch and carry. Steal, if you want. I'm good at those."
"You don't tend a plot, you don't eat. Go or stay, as you will."
I stayed. The road had got tiresome of late. My boots had fallen to pieces, and a thieving tallyman had jacked my knife. Bare hands or sticks weren’t enough to fend off the skags now I was ripe. Last thing I needed was a squaller planted inside me. My own belly was empty half the time.
The story is called At Fenwick Faire, and I would call it a gritty myth.
The anthology is Broken Links, Mended Lives. There are some excellent stories in the anthology - some by published authors, some by authors who certainly should be. It is mixed genre - in keeping with the organization's membership - but I would estimate that more than half the stories are in the "speculative fiction" realm.
If you'd like to support an organization that works hard to educate and support aspiring writers, as well as catch some great talent, give it a try.