When Speculative Faith held its annual winter short story contest recently, I decided to add my own entry to the array of imaginative and fascinating 250-word stories that the prompt engendered. I didn't get the majority of the votes, but I had a lot fun and, best of all, I got some useful feedback. Here is my story, here are the responses, and here is your chance to give me feedback too!
This was the prompt:
The approaching cloud wasn’t natural—it was too dark, too dense, and too fast—but Daniel had no place to hide and no chance to outrun it.
Writers had 250 words to continue the story. It did not have to be a complete story, but it had to grip the reader from the first few words. So here was my take on it:
The approaching cloud wasn’t natural—it was too dark, too dense, and too fast—but Daniel had no place to hide and no chance to outrun it. There was nothing to do but stand. How appropriately heroic. That is, it WOULD be heroic if it weren’t so dashed unnerving to observe a supernatural black cloud pouring toward him like a thousand black steeds wreathed in smoke.
Good gravy. It WAS a thousand black steeds wreathed in smoke.
This was insane. Here he was, alone on the edge of a fifty-foot drop to the sea, with supernatural horses swooping toward him on the wings of a biting wind. Jordan had cornered him this time.
A slow, sly grin spread across the man’s clean-shaven face as a thought coalesced. They were horses, weren’t they? Well, then, they ought to behave like horses would.
Only a few moments remained. Daniel reached into his pocket and unrolled a long silk banner he often used in his acts. He shook it, and it fluttered in the stiff wind, weaving toward the cloud-horses like a billowing rainbow snake.
The horses squealed and panicked.
In the next moment, a whirlwind jerked Daniel away, and he stood once more in Jordan’s living room. Jordan lay on the floor in helpless conniptions.
“Daniel, I shall have to write you into my stories more often! None of my other volunteers have responded that way when faced with the Horses of Fear. Most come back to my living room looking ready to faint.”
“Of course,” said Daniel with a sideways grin, as he tucked his banner back into his pocket. “None of them were magicians.”
A Few Thoughts
For the record, I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote this. If I could narrate my thoughts as I wrote this, they would go something like this:
"Okee-dokee, let's make this suspenseful. Interesting, Daniel just does not seem to be taking this seriously. Daniel, let's get more realistic here, buddy! Creepy cloud-horses, remember? Nope, you are just not cooperating. Fine, let's go flippant and jocular.
Yes, but what are you going to do with the horses now? I see that you're just as stumped as I am. Well, your response can't be heroic. You've already made it clear that you won't be that suave, serious hero. So you're going to have to do something weird and off-the-wall.
Well, if the cloud is full of horses, I know one thing that horses don't like: to be startled. Very well, Daniel, you shall startle them with one of those banner thingies that the magicians pull out of their mouths or their pockets for, like, ever and ever, until it's laying on the floor in luscious yards of rainbow silk.
How do I end this with a twist? I know! He has a friend. And I shall name him Squishy--I mean, Jordan--and I shall make him laugh at Daniel, and hint at more wacky adventures to come."
"This is such a weird story. I don't even know why I'm posting it. But I will, because now I am feeling nutty and jocular and flippant like Daniel."
"Wonder if anyone else has a weird sense of humor like me?"
So what's your feedback? Is it (A) weird, (B) fun, (C) both, or (D) neither? And do you want more story-Macgyver mini-adventures with Daniel and Jordan?