“Anything you can do, I can do better” had always been our motto. If I learnt a new language, he learnt two. If he learnt how to walk on a rope, I learnt how to dance on it. We pushed each other to great heights we would never have achieved alone, both good and bad.
Now, we stand as generals on different sides on the same battlefield. Rather than reluctance, I feel exhilaration. What better way to prove that I can do anything better than him than by winning the war?
The runes glowed in the darkness. She raised a hesitant hand over one particular symbol.
Behind the runes slept a man who could be a saviour or destroyer. Which role he took depended entirely on the one who freed him from his seal. In this case, her. Could she really do it?
Hurried footsteps reminded her that she wasn’t the only one who wanted to control him. The competition chased away her hesitation. She didn’t know if she was the right guide, but she would rather the guide be her than them.
She slammed her hand against the rune, searing it into her skin and breaking the seal at the same time. The glowing runes vanished and the man opened his eyes.
She moved anyway, because that was what people did when they got the shock of their lives. The sight of weapons aimed at her made her stumble back until she hit the man.
The man. She had a weapon too. She could use it. Him. Maybe she really wasn’t the right person to be his guide. Too late now.
“Protect me and get us out of here.”
The words sprinted out of her mouth. One of the latecomers shot her, only for the bullet to hit an invisible wall. The man lifted her against him with one arm and swept the other across him. Their attackers flew back to smash against the the wall with sickening cracks.
This was the power now under her command. The power that was her responsibility to guide to the right path. If she had any regrets at releasing the seal, it was too late now. She could only move forward and hope she didn’t mess up too much.
After years as a prisoner, it was finally time to go home.
Halfway through the story I realised this piece was very similar to The Target. Not that surprising, given that I wrote both stories with the thought: people wanting the same thing = drama. I spent the next half of the story trying to make them both more distinct. I hope it worked.
The boy led his friend into the abandoned hut half buried in the ground.
“What do you think?” the boy asked.
The friend looked around, noting the furniture and shelves and all the nooks and crannies they could hide in if they wanted to.
“This looks amazing.”
“‘This’ is also taken,” a third voice said.
People stepped out from their hiding spots, filling up the room in moments. The two boys stepped back.
“Sorry kids, but we were here first. Go home.”
Behind the speaker, someone played with a knife. The friend looked ready to run, but the other boy didn’t look like he would give up that quickly.
“If you want a secret hideout,” the man said before the boy did something stupid, “There is a treehouse near the river. You can try that.”
That seemed to pacify the first boy, and both boys scampered out.
The group settled back into their seats and the meeting resumed.
“So, back to the plan. What do we do about the metal detectors?”
My response to the July prompt ‘competition’.
The competition was rigged. Had been for years. Everyone knew it. And yet, this year, it was a visiting foreigner who took first place.
The buzz that unexpected win generated rippled through the local community. As it travelled, it planted seeds into the heart of some.
If that skinny beansprout of a guy can do it, so can I.
A year later, the foreigner wasn’t around to participate, but a fresh face still made it to third place. Another ripple spread through the community. More seeds dropped, some sprouted.
I can do it.
No one who didn’t receive help from the organisers made it into top three the next year, but the organisers had intervened so much that even other cities caught on. No one took the win seriously, even the winners themselves. At the same time, more seeds sprouted and grew.
I will win.
Learning from the previous year’s disaster, the organisers toned down the support they offered to their favourites. The other competitors didn’t care. They only had eyes for the coveted first place, and their fervour bowled over anyone else with less determination.
That year, the winners were truly winners.
I got a call recently from someone who claimed to be from Microsoft, saying that they were doing something (didn’t catch exactly what they were saying since I couldn’t really hear them at the beginning of the call). They were going to talk me through some computer stuff. The whole time, I was wondering if it was a scam, especially when they wanted me to download something. After a frustrating few minutes, my dad came back and I just passed the phone to him. Usually, I would have just said that my parents were out and hung up, but I was waiting for a call. (Though in hindsight, I was waiting for a call from Acer, not Microsoft.)
The call led to a short conversation on how to deal with scammers, which has made its way to this post, with some modification. This is for every person who might get scammed in the future.
How to identify scams:
Calls from big companies on house phones
Big companies won’t bother checking up on individual customers to see if there’s anything wrong with their product. As my mum pointed out, they can’t check on every single customer. If they’re doing their business right, they’ll be too many of them.
While you’re on the phone, nothing’s stopping you from going online and searching to see if whatever the caller’s trying to get you to do/sell is a scam. Chances are, you’re not the only one.
Non-existent problems, competitions…
If you have no problems with your product, you don’t need help to fix a non-existent problem. If you’ve never entered a competition, you aren’t likely to win any prize.
So. Now that you know you may be talking to a scammer…
How to deal with them:
Just hang up
Because scammers won’t hang up until they’ve got you to do what they one. So if you’re waiting for them to hang up, don’t bother.
Ask for their name and contact number
For those who want to be polite, just in case they really are talking to a customer service employee, ask for their name and contact number so that you can call them back. If they won’t give it to you, hang up; if they won’t let you hang up, it’s probably a scam. If they do give it to you… give the company a call and ask if they have an employee with the name and contact number given to you?