The Next Chapter

“Thank you!”

It’s all still a blur, but I know I ended my Master’s thesis presentation with the biggest smile on my face. The applause rang in my head for hours afterward. I barely even remember the evaluators’ comments during the defense.

All I remember is their last question: “What next?”

I’d already thought about the question long and hard. Would I attain a Ph.D right away, or take a break to pursue creative writing?

I smiled and said I’d follow my passion. They thought I meant science. I knew better.

“On to the next chapter of my life!”

This is a little 100-word challenge I set for myself just for fun, loosely based on a true story. Hope you enjoyed the piece! Thanks for reading!

Sweet Gold

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

The young bear spotted the bee landing on a daisy.

Curious, he followed the striped insect to its hive.

It led him through meadows rich with wildflowers.

Finally, it vanished into a large tree.

The cub sniffed the hive cautiously.

He reached his paw inside.

Out came something sticky.

It tasted sweet.

Delicious gold.


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!

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A Day in My Paws

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

I see the way you’re staring, and I know you’re wondering what it’s like to be me, but it’s not so easy to sum up a day in my life, this wonderful life of luxury and tranquility, a life where I get to sleep through most of the day and no one bats an eye, where I wake up at the crack of dawn and sing my heart out for half an hour before I run outside to greet the day, where I spend the early morning chasing birds and butterflies and lizards around until I get tired and collapse on the sunlit porch for hours, where I’m constantly waited on by adoring subjects who will pet me and scratch behind my ears when I rub myself against their legs and who know to rub my belly exactly three times when I lie on my back because four is when I attack, where all I have to do is cry to make someone open the door for me and even wait the whole five minutes until I’m finally ready to come inside, where there’s never a shortage of giant oddly shaped scratching posts and high surfaces and objects to knock over, where I always get to curl up in a warm lap or a soft bed when it gets cold at night, and where I get all the food and comfort and unconditional love I could possibly want, a life so perfect that I could hardly sum it up in a day… except that I just did, and I can tell you it’s the best life in the world.

This story is based on What If? Exercise 90: “The Journey of the Long Sentence”. The exercise is to write a short short story that’s only one sentence long. The objective is to understand how we can shape our writing in a similar manner that our minds function, building a linear order for observations that often consist of many overlapping aspects. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

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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!

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