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Stop Pretending

Stop pretending. This isn’t you.

Why are you hiding? You think they’ll never see through the mask? You think they won’t like what they see when they do?

Pretending is exhausting, I know. It must be hard to keep up a facade all the time. That’s why you cry every night, isn’t it? That’s why you never let anyone in, why you never show that face to anyone but me. It’s easier to wear the mask when nobody knows what’s underneath.

You keep telling yourself that it’s better to play a part, to blend in, to be “one of them”. You think if you always tell them exactly what they want to hear, then maybe they’ll like you. You think their approval can make you happy. You’d rather feel accepted than dare to stand out by letting them see what’s on the inside, even if it chips away a little piece of you every day.

But I know you’re better than this.

Don’t give me that look. You know I’m right. The glass between us can’t protect you from the truth. That’s why you came looking for me, isn’t it? Why you always look for me in your weakest moments. You want me to help you, to encourage you, to save you. You want me to tell you what you already know.

But I can’t tell you anything, can I? Everything I’m telling you, you’re really telling yourself. I’m just the voice; the words are all yours. You have the power to save yourself.

That’s it. There’s that smile. You feel your confidence growing, don’t you? Hold onto that feeling. You know what you have to do now. You’ve always known.

Start listening to this voice in the mirror, the voice inside you.

Don’t be afraid anymore. It’s time to discard the mask for good. Get out there and show the world this face, your real face, the face of someone who’s comfortable in their skin and doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. Only then will you finally be free. Trust me, that’s the only face you’ll ever need to be happy.

Stop pretending to be somebody else, and start being you.

Five Seconds

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Jenny stared at the clear sky above her, while all around, the sounds of screaming and crying grew fainter. She winced at the sharp pain running up her leg, knowing that if she’d just waited a few seconds after the light turned red, she’d still be on her way to school right now. But it was too late; for the next hour, her world would be nothing but sirens, blood, and darkness.

Matt trembled as he fumbled with his cellphone, his heart pounding in his ears. He kept trying to piece everything together, but it had all happened so fast; one second, he was swerving to avoid the boy on the bike, the next, he was slamming on his brakes and screeching to a halt. He was terrified to think he’d soon be explaining to the police that the girl had come out of nowhere, and he hadn’t even seen the lights change.

Cory sat on the sidewalk with his face buried in his hands and a bicycle lying beside him. Two strangers sat on either side of him, patting him on the shoulder and reassuring him that it was an accident, that he wasn’t to blame for the car or the girl, but he knew the truth. He had put off getting his brakes fixed for too long, they had cost him those precious few seconds of reaction time, and this terrible accident was all his fault.

Donna knelt beside the poor girl lying on the pavement, feeling uneasy about the youth in her face and the odd angle of her broken leg. The woman wasn’t usually so affected by her job, but the knot in her throat now was only too real, and she kept her eyes averted as she helped her colleagues move the unconscious teenager onto the stretcher. Knowing that a matter of seconds could just as easily have taken her own adolescent daughter, she resolved to do everything she could to get this girl back on her feet and moving forward in life once more.

Nick watched helplessly as the ambulance drove away down the street, taking with it the girl who sat in front of him in Math class every day. In that moment, it occurred to him that everything left unsaid, everything that could have been said, had been taken away in the span of a few short seconds. Terrified at the thought of never getting another chance, he decided that the first day she was back in school, he would finally tell her exactly how he felt.


These pieces are based on What If? Exercise 97: “Nanofictions”. The exercise is to write five flash fiction pieces of three sentences each, which may or may not be connected by a common detail. The objective is to understand how to focus immediately on a troubled situation and learn how to identify the details of drama. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Living Rainbow

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

The wind carried the little seeds into a gray field.

There they landed, in the middle of the grass.

Days and nights of sun and rain passed.

Until at last, the first sprouts appeared.

One by one, bright flowers blossomed.

Soon, the field was alive.

Grays turned to colors.

A beautiful sight.

Magical field.

Rainbow.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Secret Flower

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Samantha had chosen her favorite flower when she was young.

Unfortunately, none of the boys knew what it was.

Nobody ever gave her the flowers she wanted.

From roses to lilies, they always missed.

Lenny finally thought to ask her.

Overjoyed, Samantha shared her secret.

Whispered in his ear.

Embarrassed, he grinned.

Ridiculously obvious.

Sunflowers.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Perfect Shot

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

The archery competition was to be held in the village.

The grand prize: ten thousand coins and a kiss.

He was only here to win the latter.

He’d loved the lord’s daughter since childhood.

Secretly, she prayed for his victory.

He drew his bow steadily.

His arrow flew straight.

The maiden smiled.

True shot.

Bullseye.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Underwater Beauty

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Above ground, the sounds of the waves fill the air.

But underwater, you can only hear your own heartbeat.

I’d wanted to see one my whole life.

Now was my chance to find them.

Through the reef we slowly dove.

Until we finally saw them.

Huge, distant moving shapes.

We stared, spellbound.

Colossal beauties.

Whales.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Surprising Science

Science never ceases to surprise me.

I’d have sworn my project was like any other of its kind: collect samples in the field, run DNA tests, analyze and discuss the data, write the paper. Simple as that. Ironically, evolutionary studies don’t usually qualify as groundbreaking, just substantiating at best. We’re all trying to support the same idea: that life is constantly changing.

I studied reef fish biogeography and evolution for half my years at college, so by the time I got into grad school, I knew their patterns pretty well. I didn’t expect anything different when I took on a project about yet another reef fish species. Evaluate its genetic connectivity along the coast, that’s all there was to it. My project was a simple matter of collecting specimens from different locations and comparing their DNA to get a picture of how it was evolving in a given biogeographic province.

Nothing out of the ordinary came up during the sampling and amplification periods. The surprise came when I analyzed the data.

I remember that moment distinctly. Exhausted from weeks of amplifying DNA, reading papers, and writing and rewriting the first parts of my thesis, I was finally sitting down at my computer to compare the sequences. I took a sip of coffee just as the program finally finished running the data… and almost spit it out at the sight of the phylogenetic tree that appeared on the screen. Where I had expected to see a single branch containing all my sequences, there were two separate clades dividing the samples collected from the northern and southern coastal regions. Two geographically close populations that should have been almost identical somehow had a 10% genetic divergence between them. Was that even possible?

An excitement like I hadn’t felt in years overcame me, but I still had to be sure. I ran the data again using three different parameters. All three trees produced the same result: North here, South there. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Yet there it was on my screen, plain as the nose on my face. The results were clear beyond a shadow of a doubt: I was dealing with…

“A new species?!”

I jumped up from my chair and ran next door to my professor’s office. Within the minute, I was showing him the trees on my computer and watching his expression change from puzzled to amazed. I knew exactly why we should be so excited by this result; it meant there were other evolutionary processes at play that we hadn’t expected. In anticipation of the stimulating discussions ahead, I knew the grin on my face wouldn’t disappear for at least a week. My project had just gotten way more interesting.

Science never ceases to surprise me. And I hope it never will.

Let Loose

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

You’ve always been afraid of the mean things they’d say.

But those kids will never get anywhere in life.

Show them you don’t care what they think.

They don’t deserve your time or fear.

Come join me on the floor.

Let your hair down tonight.

And stop being afraid.

Just have fun!

Let loose!

Dance!


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Does He Know?

Does he know?

I ask myself this question every day, every time he looks at me, every time he talks to me, every time he smiles at me. Whenever I think I’m figuring out the answer, he distracts me and keeps me guessing. Sometimes I think he does it on purpose, just sitting there concentrating, brow furrowed, pencil between his teeth, like he knows he’s the cutest thing ever without even trying.

He must know.

Maybe he really is clueless. I never gave him a reason to suspect anything might be different. We’ve always been close. He talks to me so casually, like I’m just one of the guys. He seems innocently unaware of how my heart skips a beat every time he looks me in the eye or touches my shoulder or says my name. Somehow that makes him even cuter.

He couldn’t know.

Discreetly, he glances over his shoulder, then he pulls a bar of chocolate from his pocket and offers me a piece under the table. The librarian is strict about the no-food-or-drink policy, so it’s almost like he’s taking a huge risk for me. I take it with a smile and hope he doesn’t notice my face turning red.

Will he ever know?

Sometimes I wish he hadn’t been such a gentleman at the spring dance. I wish he hadn’t insisted we go together, or asked me to dance, or joked about how I’m the only girl who understands him. That’s how this all started: he made me see him in a whole new light. It was the first time I ever really thought of him as a boy. Now I have to tell myself over and over that we’re just friends. Just friends. The words sting like ice in my heart, this stupid fragile teenage heart.

He’ll never know.

I know I have to accept that he may never see me as anything more than his best friend. And yet I can’t stop asking myself that one question.

Does he know… that I love him?

Risen

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

The phoenix is a legendary bird of strength and wisdom.

But it’s nothing if it cannot set itself ablaze.

She feared she would never have such courage.

Until the first time she touched fire.

Now she hungered for that power.

She summoned the magic within.

Suddenly, her feathers ignited.

She burned fiercely.

True phoenix.

Rise.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

About J.C. Wolfe

J.C. Wolfe is a fiction writer, biologist, and aspiring novelist of science fantasy and romance. A natural-born American and graduate in Marine Ecology from a university in Brazil, J.C. now writes for a living in California while spending free time blogging and penning stories and poetry.

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