Genre: general, family
The king thought as the trader showed his greatest wares.
I want everything in the world.
The queen thought as she hosted event after event.
I want to be the centre of everyone’s attention.
The princess thought as she courted suitor after suitor.
I want to be desired by all.
The prince thought as he watched his family live their own lives around him.
I want my family to want me.
Genre: slice of life
It was hard to keep emergency rations when they tasted so good.
“Those are meant for emergencies, boss, not a snack as you work,” his bodyguard pointed out with the flat tone of one who knew her words wouldn’t change anything.
“But it tastes delicious. It’ll be a shame to leave them alone,” he said, though he did try to keep the rations away.
His bodyguard was too professional to sigh while on duty, but he was certain she was doing it in her head.
Unsurprisingly, he finished the rest of his emergency ration before he left the office. As usual.
The next day, however, he bit into his ration… and almost spit it back out on his desk.
“What’s this?” he sputtered.
“Your emergency ration, boss. New recipe. Do you not find it to your liking?” his bodyguard said mildly.
“It tastes horrible.” He looked at the rest of the identical looking rations. No doubt they all tasted as foul as the one he just ate.
“Perhaps now you will truly save them for emergencies.” His bodyguard sent him a look.
He pouted and put them away.
Late afternoon, just as he was craving for a snack to fuel up after all the decision making and planning he had been making throughout the day, a plate bearing a very familiar snack arrived on his desk. His old, delicious emergency rations!
He looked to his bodyguard, who looked coolly back.
“Aww. I knew you cared,” he said.
Eyes bright and mouth already salivating, he happily dug in.
In his conceit, the usurper thought he had completely crushed all opposition and his position unshakable.
But dissent shimmered under the bowed backs and carefully blank faces. The people of the land slowly gathered their strength as they waited for the hidden prince to one day take his rightful place.
“Until the king returns,” they whispered to each other, to encourage and to comfort.
They would continue their work and keep the country strong.
Until the king returned.
Genre: fantasy, family
There’s a dragon on my homework.
The tiny lizard nuzzles my book, but otherwise does not look like it wants to set my homework on fire.
I don’t know if I should be relieved or disappointed about this.
Anyway, dragons are rare. Baby dragons even more so, and this has to be a baby dragon to be able to fit on my desk.
I cautiously approach the dragon, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. If the dragon is willing to enter my room, perhaps it – I note the non-branching horns – she won’t mind becoming my familiar.
The dragon merely looks at my hand, which I take as an encouraging sign. Here goes nothing. I touch her head.
Someone giggles outside my door, and I realise too late what the dragon actually is.
An illusion created by my mischievous little brother.
Well, if he wants to use his hard-learnt, world changing skills to play a trick on his precious family, so can I.
I slump in disappointment and use the movement to hide my own spell. In my disappointment, I pull my drawer open to bring out a container of delicious looking cookies and put them on my desk. But…
“Hmm. Need milk,” I say aloud and rise to my feet, giving my little brother ample time to scamper out of sight.
As expected, once I am out of the way, my little brother sneaks into my room straight for the cookies. He curls his fingers around my cookies… and can’t pull them out. He has fallen into my sticky trap!
“Ah hah!” I jump back into my room. “I knew it was you.”
I close the distance between us in a few strides and loom over him.
With both hands stuck to my cookie trap, my little brother can only squirm as I tickle him mercilessly.
“Will you play tricks on me again?” I pause just long enough to ask.
I tickle him once more.
“Will you play tricks on my again?” I repeat.
As I continue to tickle him into submission, a part of me keeps an eye on his breathing while the other part tries to figure out how I can stop without breaking character. Fortunately, my brother gives up first, and it is a relief to release him from his torture.
“So what did we learn today?” I prompt him.
“That I make good dragons,” my little brother says with a proud smile.
“Ok, I’ll give you that. And?”
“Don’t eat your cookies because it’s a TRAP!” He bolts out the room in the blink of an eye.
I shake my head and sigh in exasperation.
That cheeky kid.
Genre: slice of life
“Chicken!” the other boys jeered from the bridge.
Water crushed him from all sides, tossing him roughly like a rag doll.
The flashback kept him rooted on the river bank, fingers clasped tightly around the scar on his arm.
“It’s not safe. Get back here,” he said to the other boys.
“Chicken! Chicken!” the boys taunted as they jumped up and down on the bridge. The bridge creaked and bounced beneath their feet.
One moment, they were on solid wood, the next, they were free falling through the air into the freezing water.
A crack shot through the air.
Jeers turned into screams as the bridge collapsed and the boys dropped into the swollen river. The rapid current dragged them down the river.
He gripped the limp body so tightly he couldn’t feel his fingers, but he couldn’t hold on and swim at the same time.
“I’ll get help,” he yelled.
Without wasting another moment, he ran back to the adults. He couldn’t stop the other boys from playing on the bridge, but he could do this. And maybe this time, he wouldn’t lose another friend.
“A fjord is like a river, but deeper. Much deeper. Rivers only go as deep as a few hundred metres, but fjords can go deeper than a thousand metres…” the tour guide said at the front of the ferry.
He leaned over to whisper in his sister’s ear. “Any response?”
She shook her head and parted her hand to reveal her still-dull pendant. She clasped her fingers together again to hide the pendant from view.
“Do you think Mum’s too deep for the pendant to sense?” she whispered.
His lips pressed together in a thin line. With effort, he relaxed it into a faint smile he hoped looked assuring.
“No. Our pendants are a matching pair. If mine can bring us all the way here halfway across the world, then yours can pinpoint exactly where Mum is, even a thousand metres deep.”
The words came out more confident than he felt, but it gave his sister the reassurance she was looking for. His sister turned her attention back to her pendant, and he turned his to keeping his anxiety in check.
His sister gasped. He pressed in.
“She’s here,” she whispered, parting her hands just enough to reveal the glowing pendant.
“Let’s go,” he said.
They slipped out of sight. With a whispered word, they shifted to a form more suited for deep water exploration and followed the light of the pendant down the fjord.
There are three ways to respond to a challenge.
The knife in the robber’s hand says to give up. It is dangerous, and it will hurt.
The righteous side of her says to fight. How many lives has this man destroyed in his greed? He needs to be stopped.
But the baby cousin behind her says to run, because running away isn’t glorious or satisfying, but at least they’ll be alive.
Making herself appear as weak as possible, she picks up her little cousin.
Then she runs.
Genre: slice of life
The village children grew up hearing the same story.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, gentle girl who loved people so much they couldn’t help but love her too, the story began the same way.
Then it changed depending on the storyteller. In some versions, invaders came and she offered herself to keep the village safe. In other versions, a great natural disaster struck and she poured so much of herself into the rescue efforts that she faded away after she had saved all she could. Other versions said that her kindness was cruelly betrayed, and in her sorrow she ran from the village, never to be seen again.
And there were more versions still, as each storyteller added their own take in their retelling. But all the different stories tied together with one phrase.
“And the moral of the story is.”
This was the part she enjoyed the most, seeing what people took from the story she spun years and years ago.
“Be kind to one another.”
“Guard your heart.”
“Take care of yourself.”
“Be prepared for any disaster.”
What are you really listening to? she wondered as she watched the little children. They would only know when the children grew older and shared their own versions to the next generation.
Genre: general, fantasy
He considered the pin for a long time, tracing a familiar path over the stiff wings before ultimately setting it down on his bedside table.
“Leaving?” she asked from the door.
“Yes.” He zipped up his backpack.
“This isn’t what you promised me.”
They studied each other, two strangers hiding behind familiar faces.
“I can’t control what my followers do,” she said.
“Yes, you can. As the leader, you are responsible for leading your people. Every action they take is a reflection of you.”
She sat beside him on his bed. “You can help me.”
“I’ve been trying, but you don’t seem to mind, so no one else does.”
“Sometimes, you need to be a little rough to get things done. It’s about show of strength. Show people you’re not someone to mess with and they won’t.”
He shook his head.
“You said you’ll change the world, but you’re the one who has changed. And not for the better.”
She gave him a small, sad smile. “I’m sorry you feel this way.”
He sighed and rose to his feet. “You and me both.”
“At least keep this with you.” She picked the pin off the table. As if holding a fragile chick, she gently pinned the metal bird to his shirt, just like when she first gave the pin to him years ago.
No one stopped him on the way out. He was a familiar face and she hadn’t spread the news about his desertion. It was her last gesture of kindness before he left the compound and cut his ties with them.
Twenty minutes later, he realised why he had been allowed to leave so easily as he writhed on the ground. The pin, which she had so carefully attached to his shirt, had grown to cling around his neck like a noose. She had never intended for him to leave alive.
Fortunately for him, a group of spies stumbled across him and saved him instead.
He had thought that he would step away from the battle of ideals after he left the organization. Her heartless treachery showed that she had turned into the monster she had wanted to fight. As her friend, it was his duty to save her from herself.
“You don’t need to threaten me. I’ll help you,” he told his saviour-captors.
Even if it meant betraying her first.
Genre: slice of life
With eyes burning from lack of sleep, she gave her assignment one last check before she sent it off to her tutor. Now she was finally done. She didn’t need to ignore the call of sleep any longer. She dragged her weary self to her bed and climbed in.
Only to hit another body.
She shrieked and flung her blanket back. A matching shriek came from her bed as the body tumbled off the side of the bed.
“Oh.” She blinked at the little girl on the floor. “It’s you.”
It was one of the twins from next door. The sister climbed back on her bed as the brother peeked out from inside her wardrobe.
“Shh. We’re playing hide and seek.” The sister pulled the blanket back up to hide underneath.
She stood dumbly by her bed for a few moments, wondering if she should kick the twins out or… or something. Her tired brain fizzled out and she gave up. She climbed into bed and slept.
It felt like she’d only closed her eyes for a second before hands shook her awake once more. She groaned and muttered something unintelligible.
“Sorry love. Have you seen the twins?”
She checked under the blanket and found the sister, sound asleep. She pulled the blanket back so that the adults could see her.
“Brother in the wardrobe,” she said with a finger pointed in the right direction.
The adults very efficiently extracted the twins, both asleep, and left the room.
“Thanks love. Go back to sleep.”