Writing Prompt: Folded Hands, Furrowed Brow, Fractured Dreams

Time to Wake

          Aurora followed the wind, and banked toward the fading sun. Golden beams of light were turning green at the edges, and curled like fire. She gazed at the vista with a furrowed brow. Her world was dying.

          Aurora tightened her body into a sharp line, clenching her muscles and heaving her wings in a powerful struggle for altitude. Her body did this instinctively, and it should have strained her to the edge of endurance. Instead it was alarmingly effortless. Finally, she reached the peak of her aerie, and dropped to the stone with a slight bounce.

          From her vantage point she could see everything. It was why she chose this place for her sanctuary. Many times she had stood here, soaking up the beauty of the green valley, the gently rolling hills, and beyond, the sapphire allure of the sea. But today it was different. The valley was dry and brown, and the hills were shrouded in smoke. The ocean was lost already.

          As she watched, the sun, which had been rising, began to sink below the horizon. The sky turned grey, and blended into the smoky hills, which also disappeared. The rough stone beneath her bare feet still felt solid and real. But for how long? Aurora folded her hands, and bowed her head, closing her eyes in silent defeat. She was out of time. She needed to flee this fractured dream to have any hope of saving the others.

          Aurora opened her eyes to darkness. “Computer,” she croaked. “Status.”

          The light in her pod activated, and she slapped a hand over her eyes, keeping them open, but shielding them.

          “Hello Aurora. Log out complete. Your session lasted 9,079 hours, 23 minutes. Status report: Life support stable. 452 users are logged in. Active scenario is degrading, scenario integrity at 63%. Initiate contingency? Say yes or no.”

          “No. What is causing the degradation? Is the equipment malfunctioning?”

          “Unknown error. No mechanical defects detected.”

          Aurora mulled this over. “Computer, open.”

          The pod door retracted. Aurora gritted her teeth, and sat up. Her back screamed in protest. She panted. When the pain faded to a throb she slowly hauled herself into the wheelchair that rested next to her pod. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and she realized that next time she probably wouldn’t be able to get up without help.

          Aurora navigated her motorized chair through the pods and stopped in front of the display screen. Her world was mapped on the screen. The outer edges were covered in red, and as she watched, she could see the red slowly creep towards the center. As it moved, she saw the number of users logged on drop from 452 to 499.

          She knew the answer before she asked. “Computer, how many users have logged off in the last hour?”


          “And the status of those users?”

          “No life signs, pods have entered hibernation.”

          Even knowing the answer, it was a shock to hear. There were so few of them left that she was sure to know them all, and some were probably friends. With effort Aurora pushed the pain away. She glanced out the window at the moonlit landscape of broken concrete, and rusting metal.

          There just wasn’t time to immerse herself in the reality of the real world so that she could bring the details with her and breathe life back into the dream. And even if she could, she would need the help of other admins to reimagine the lost geography. Not enough time. And the lost dreamers wouldn’t be waking again.

          Aurora bowed her head once more. “Computer. Initiate contingency.”

          Her heart filled with darkness as the pods flooded with light.

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Why I’m Grateful For My First Rejection

A couple of weeks ago I submitted my first piece of Flash Fiction “The Price of Passage” to Flash Fiction Online. It got rejected. You would think I’d be discouraged, upset, in a funk. Actually, I’m grateful and encouraged. Excited even. Why? because I received a personal rejection note from the editor with feedback that can actually improve my writing. Here is an excerpt from the note with names left out:

To further ease your mind, I’d like you to know that both I and our publisher, _________________, read your story. We found the storytelling and narrative voice lovely and gentle, but found the POV shift, accompanied by the use of alternate names/identity tags for the acting characters, to be confusing.


I apologize for any anxiety I may have caused you, and hope to see your work in our slush pile again soon.

I sent a short but heartfelt thank you note in return. This feedback is very specific, and tells me exactly how I can improve my work. I don’t delude myself that this is the only flaw in my writing, but I can check this one off the list with just a little more attention to that area. Getting concrete advice for improvement is more than I expected, and incredibly useful. Also, receiving a personal note at all is encouraging due to its rarity. You can read more about why this is a good sign in the blog post How to Interpret Rejection by Joe Hessert, the editor of Ardor Magazine.

By the way, if you haven’t read Flash Fiction Online yet, you should. Its wonderful!


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