If I can own only one thing in the world, I’ll choose a noise cancelling headset.
On a good day, I can hear the whisper of my neighbour’s cat padding over their soft carpet.
On a bad day, I can hear the rapid tapping of a centipede’s many feet as it crawls over the bark of a tree further than my eye can see.
Today’s an average day. I wake to the delicious sizzling of fat rendering on a hot pan in a house two blocks away. It’s too far for me to smell anything, but my mind helpfully pulls up the memory of salty bacon and juicy steak to fill in the blanks.
I turn my attention inwards, but I can’t hear any heartbeats at home other than mind. I groan with self pity. If I want any food, I’ll need to prepare it myself.
It’s a weekend morning. I don’t want to be up any earlier than noon. But the cooking sounds amazing.
I writhe under my duvet, making the sheets rustle noisily against my ears, but it’s not enough to block out the sizzling. Even worse, other sounds start spilling in, like the regular ticking of a toaster timer and the gentle bubbling of a brewing coffee. Every sound is calling me out to of bed.
“Fine,” I hiss and fling the covers noisily off me. I stomp my way down the stairs, letting the heavy thumps drown out the sounds of life around me as I head for the fridge.
I will accept nothing less than a full breakfast today.
Genre: fantasy, slice of life
Always hanging from her ears was a pair of mismatched earrings. One was a golden apple, the other was a smooth glass sphere.
They weren’t always like this. Both began as gold apples. The stark difference between them now was due to a habit of hers.
Whenever she was nervous, her left hand reached up to rub over her earring. In the beginning the textured surface was a grounding sensation. As her skin rubbed off the outer layer, revealing the transparent glass beneath, she gained more confidence and the cool touch became a reminder of all the challenges she had overcome.
The earrings was a common ice breaker topic whenever she met new people. Many asked about the story behind the mismatched pair, but she never answered.
Just like how she had learnt and grown over the years, she would like her own friends to take the time to discover the story behind her earrings themselves.
Genre: slice of life
One look at the frustration on his sister’s face is all it takes for him to make the offer. “I’ll help you.”
When he dumps the bag of tangled yarns on his bed, his breath catches, but it’s too late for regrets. Pressing his lips in a determined line, he gets to work.
Picking at the looser loops, he nudges apart the multicoloured strands. He goes slow, not wanting to accidentally create dead knots. The yarns reward his patience by gently unravelling under his touch.
When he’s done, his mouth is dry, his body hurts when he moves, and the afternoon sun has dimmed into dusk. The aches that have accumulated after the hours of intense focus fades at his sister’s relieved delight when he hands her ten neatly coiled balls.
Two weeks later, he receives a handsome handknitted jumper with special sleeves that end with holes for his fingers to poke through like fingerless gloves.
Genre: slice of life, family
On an ordinary, snowy day, a large man in a top hat approaches the reception desk of the childcare centre. In a surprisingly soft voice, the man says, “I’m here to pick up my son.”
A bloodcurdling scream slices the air.
“I’ve been hit!”
A small body crashes into the snow and sends a white flurry into the air. A hand reaches up towards the air amidst dying gasps.
The long suffering receptionist nods. “You know where he is.”
The man tips his hat in thanks and sweeps into the gated garden.
“Stay strong, son. Reinforcements are coming!”
Genre: slice of life, family
No matter how chaotic, there is order in everything in the world. Summer always follows spring, water flows downhill from the mountains to the sea, plants flower and fruit in their own seasons.
Humans are the exceptions. Instead of following the natural system, they create their own.
For their comfort, they’ll change the terrain. For their plans, they’ll change the local ecology. For their preference, they’ll breed new species.
It’s the hardest, yet most important quality they need to remember whenever they pretend to be human. From turning on the heater when it’s cold, to keeping leftover food in the fridge for later. Nothing can be taken for granted.
Not everyone is able to adapt, but fortunately for them, humans are also excellent at coming up with their own explanations.
So they live among the humans, observing and recording the unexpected stories of the short-lived species, so that they may bring them back for their loved ones back home to savour.
In a world where education is reserved for nobility, her hunger for knowledge is a dangerous desire.
Forced to pick between survival and satisfaction, the answer is clear. As much as she doesn’t want to, she stays away from the books and lessons, least she gives in to her temptation and bring calamity to her community.
But doesn’t mean she stops trying.
Only nobility have the right to learn, so her first plan is to be one. Unfortunately, the only way in is to dazzle them with wisdom, beauty, or money. It’s a crime for her to be smart, her life as a peasant makes her appearance too rough for the higher society’s tastes, and the socio-economic gap keeps them in constant poverty.
So nobility’s out of the question. What other options does she have?
It takes her a few years, but she finally finds an answer. The nobility has their paradigms and schools of thoughts, the common folk has folklore and superstition. If formal education is beyond her station, then she’ll be devour all the oral teachings she’s allowed to take.
Genre: slice of life, general
Inspired by the prompt: erudite
After a few years, her unparalleled mastery of folklore earns her a noble title. By then, she’s learnt enough to know that the high society is a community of jealous people, so she sticks to her ‘low class superstition’ and carves herself a niche that no one else wants.
The flexibility to organise his own days was the main reason decided to start a company instead of working in a 9 to 5 job.
What he got instead was his days and nights consumed completely by work. As his own boss, he couldn’t just clock off when there were problems, and as a fledging business, there were problems aplenty.
It was stressful. It was painful. It made premature grey hairs multiply on his scalp.
But he refused to give up. He had a dream, and he wasn’t going to stop until he could relax on the beach on a sunny work day.
Genre: slice of life, general
Guarding the school’s back gate is the statue of a lamb. Most of the students, and even some of the staff, don’t know the gate exists, yet the lamb is the most heavily graffitied item on campus.
The lamb might be pale granite, but it has worn every colour under the sky. Since it suddenly appeared a year ago, students have painted and poured the stickiest and most stubborn stains over its smooth surface. Why? Because no matter how what they throw at it, the lamb’s always graffiti-free when they return, and that’s a challenge no delinquent can resist.
It’s all fun and games until someone comes up with the idea of carving the statue itself. Sharp blades aren’t allowed on campus, but that doesn’t stop them. After some trial and error, they find the right tools and gouge deep lines into the lamb’s flanks. Surely this will stick.
Half a day later, the statue’s perfectly unmarred. Even when they know what they’re looking for, they can’t find a single trace of the marks their tools left.
Now they’re scared.
“It’s cursed,” the students tell each other as they run.
Their fearful escape is captured by the hidden camera trained at the statue. On the other side, a redhead turns, her smile as sharp as her teeth as she regards her prospective clients.
“The restorative properties of the restipetra speaks for itself. With this, you can cut down on maintenance costs for your buildings. Any takers?”
Eager hands reach out.
Her eyes narrow in satisfaction.
In repose, her cat is the sweetest fluffy angel.
In a storm, her cat is a scratchy demon that shouldn’t be approached with anything less than full body coverage.
So it’s a terrible coincidence that she’s cuddling her cat when the sudden storm announces its arrival with an earth shattering boom. The feline wakes with a start and sharp claws immediately dig into her skin.
Now both of them are yowling, one in terror, one in agony, both unable to pull away from the other.
Eyes burning with tears, she makes a resolution. She’s going to build the perfect soundproof room, and she’ll train her cat to hide in it during any storm. Less stress for the cat, less scars on her skin.
Genre: slice of life
Decades later, she has a lot of fun inventing all kinds of stories to explain her scars to her kids and grandkids. Her favourite is the one where she manages to convince the twins for years that the scars are leftovers from when they sprouted out of her arms like flowers.
She’s in a meadow of white roses that stretch as far as the eye can see.
But when she sniffs the air, all she smells is duck.
Five spices, onion, thyme, soy sauce. It feels more like she’s on a plate about to be served. This dreamer must have gone to sleep hungry.
She shakes her head, as if she can shake the smell off her. It doesn’t work. The tantalising scent coils around her like ivy. Even though she’s in the dreamscape where she doesn’t need to be hungry if she doesn’t want to be, her mouth still waters.
That’s it. She’ll get the job done lickety-split, and when she wakes up, she knows what she’s eating for breakfast.