Aw, you sweetheart.
I know why you’re here. You play it off like you’re just trying to find good stuff to write about, but I get it. There are a million-and-one other things you could be doing instead, but you’re here because you care. You’re here because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
Anything for a Smile
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Don’t be fooled, this week’s prompt is actually a question:
“What would you do for a smile?”
What would you trade to bring someone else joy? What would you give up to find happiness yourself? This is a question of values. How much do we value happiness, and how does it compare to the other things we value? Is there a worthy exchange we can make, one for the other?
An easy way to navigate the prompt this week is to just slot things in for both of the prompt’s keywords: “Anything” = [Something of deep personal value]; “Smile” = [Someone’s happiness]. So, off-hand, we could do “My Career” for “My lover’s happiness”. The final step would be to figure out how one gets in the way of the other. Why is the “anything” at odds with the “smile”? Maybe this is a story about someone who’s picked up a line of work that absorbs all their time and leaves them an exhausted husk of their former self, robbing their lover of the person they once were. Maybe this is a story about someone who has to decide between traveling far away to a place their lover can’t go in order to pursue a career path, and staying by their sides. There are a lot of places to take even this simple substitution. If you can’t think of anything, give it a try!
Of course, you can write more than just tragic sacrifices. It could also be a harebrained scheme to bring someone happiness; a total farce for something extremely simple.
Whatever direction you go, consider one thing…
What will your story do to make us smile?
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
A Tale of Light
Ages ago, in other lands, a royal sadness doomed a queendom to darkness. The prince’s magic could make plants grow and water flow. When the family was happy, magical light burst forth, bringing colorful days to all the darkland. But one had not felt joy in seasons, and the queendom was a wilted dusk.
When nothing could lift the prince’s spirits, the queen put forth a decree: whoever could make her son smile could spend all their days in the underpalace, a noble and hero.
People came from every corner to lift his spirits. They brought jokes, and creatures, and beautiful things. But still the prince did not smile.
Then, one knowledge-chaser tapped on the door. They had not heard the decree; they wished only to study the prince and his powers of light. Intrigued, the queen assented, and went to fetch the prince.
The young man was sullen and guarded when he arrived, so that the knowledge-chaser was moved to ask what vexed him so. It was the first time anyone had asked.
“The queendom is barren and the people weep for want of food,” lamented the prince. “I wish to go out and use my magic to help them, but I am forbidden to leave. That is why I grieve.”
The knowledge chaser jumped at the prospect of seeing the prince employ his powers. “A noble desire!” they said. “I can help you fulfill it. We will sneak away, and go to help the people.”
And so the plan was set. When the guard changed, the pair ran through the underpalace doors and stole away into the night. As they found a farm in need, the prince grew the crops to perfection. They celebrated their success, and the prince broke out in a radiant smile.
Suddenly, light filled the darklands! The queen found her son and the visitor missing. But the escape had brought color back to the queendom. She let them be.
And so the prince and the knowledge-chaser became great friends and adventurers, restoring life to their home. And the darklands were light forever after.
Title: Have One on the House
Written By: T.S.G. Sager
“Welcome to 24-Seven! Please let me know if you require any assistance!” Tokuhei announced, as a mother and her child entered the store. His attention was soon brought to his senior supervisor.
“I gotta say, Dueshi-san. You’re shaping up to be quite the employee. Are you excited about our date tonight?” Takuro cooed.
“D-D-D-Date?” Tokuhei stammered, flustered by Takuro’s wording. Takuro smirked at his coworker’s flustered face.
“You don’t remember?” Takuro asked, looking back at the busy mother, then back to Tokuhei. “The Mech Fights?”
“Mech Fights? You mean the thing that twelve year old mentioned to us? Pretty sure she was just jok-”
“That twelve year old is Seki Kubo!” Takuro exclaimed, before looking back at the Mother. Her child was filling up a fountain drink. He returned to Tokuhei. “Seki Kubo is the CEO of our company, she wasn’t kidding.” Takuro watched as the Mother approached the counter, “Don’t worry about it, you’ll see what I mean tonight. For now, you have a customer.”
Confused, Tokuhei nodded suspiciously, then turned to his customer. “Good afternoon, ma’am, did you find everything alright?”
“Yes, thank you. Just the drink for my son.” She replied with a smile.
Tokuhei rang up her order, and after handing her the change, he wished her a wonderful day.
“Come on, son! We’re leaving!” As she called to him, he began to run to his momma, his drink sloshing around in his hands. Tokuhei turned back to Takuro when he heard it.
“Splash!” Tokuhei turned to see that the boy slid and fell on the linoleum flooring. The mother hurried to her crying son, making sure that he was okay. Tokuhei rushed past her as Takuro went to check up on the boy.
“Please don’t cry, the important thing is that you are okay. We can always buy another drink.” she reassured him.
“No need ma’am. This one is on the house. Here you go, buddy!” Tokuhei smiled, handing the boy another beverage.
“What do you say, son?”
The child smiled brightly up at Tokuhei. “Thank you, mister!”
“Anytime! Please. Have yourselves a wonderful day!”
A Cut and Dry Case
The Public Defender; the hardest job in law a man can ever work. For every one good person who needs our help, you’ll represent a hundred lowlives who don’t deserve it. I’ve seen my share during my thirty years in the business.
But I’ve never met another man like Jonathan Kavanagh.
According to his file, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, twenty-six-year-old Jonathan walked into Briarwood police precinct and calmly admitted to fourteen counts of murder. It was reported he did not resist, and that he was carrying a hacksaw, an empty bag of McDonald, and his clothes were soaked with blood.
I spoke to Jonathan only once, before his hearing. His confession was all the evidence needed to convict; the trial was only for show. He was already guilty. My job was simply to expedite the verdict. It would be better that way. I just had to keep him quiet.
During our brief conversation, it felt like talking to a corpse. There was nothing behind those eyes, like the man didn’t even realize he was alive.
He never reacted. Not when the forensics identified the bodies they found. Not when the charges were laid out. Not even during his moment at the podium, where he laid out ever twisted detail of what he’d done to his victims. When the gavel hit the bench, he never even flinched. Life was too good for him. He got Death.
That was the end for the “Briarwood Butcher”, as the tabloids nicknamed him, right?
I was at the execution. Professional courtesy towards a client, nothing more. They say that when the lethal injection is administered, before the sedative kicks in, it can cause the victim to spasm. But the look on Jonathan’s face wasn’t some simple twitch. When he looked at us, all I could see on his face, was pure joy. A grin, wider than anything you could imagine.
To this day, I can still see it, as clear as any memory I’ve ever had, and I wonder.
Had we given that bastard, exactly what he had wanted, all along?
by Gage Jarman
The man sat in darkness, smiling at a screen. The bright light shone off his oily skin. “Don’t message her again,” he chanted like a mantra. She had recently broken up, and he had confided in her. They had chatted a little, but she wasn’t replying lately. He thought she must be busy with work. Some days he gets worn out too. He scrolled endlessly through the dating app, hoping to find some way, some angle to relieve her stress. He wanted to see her smile. He knew how hard life could be. He just wanted to make her smile. He fell asleep fantasizing about all the ways he could cheer her up.
The next day, the man started his preparations. He had roughly until 5:30. He knew that’s when she got off work due to some internet sleuthing. He went to the store and bought anything and everything he thought would set the mood. The man parked a few blocks from her small house.. He carried the supplies to the back door and shimmed the lock. The door opened. He walked in cautiously.
The woman saw lights flickering through the window as she pulled up to her driveway. She grabbed a small shovel from the garden and clutched it close. The door was unlocked. The foyer was filled with the scent of something delicious. Her stomach sank. She walked slowly, barely creeping forward. There were flowers on the table, chocolates, candles burning, a small jewelry box, and a roast cooling on top of the oven.
“Surprise!” the man jumped up from behind the island.
The woman jumped.
The man smiled. “Calm down. It’s just me, Andrew, from the—”
“What are you doing here?” She took a step back.
“I thought you could use—”
“What are you doing here!” The woman screamed.
“GET OUT!” The woman charged. The man ducked. The shovel struck the island. He scrambled out the house like a fat raccoon.
The man ran until his chest burned, until he puked. He threw his phone and fell to the ground, grovelling in anguish.
By Inky Segno
The hospital was rather quiet that night, the only sounds being the soft click-clack of the counter worker’s keyboard and the distant electrical hum of the fluorescent lights. As he made his way down the hall towards the waiting room, the late night snow playing was nothing more than static to him.
Ray was in a trance.
When you’re told that a surgery to save your mother is only a flip-of-a-coin successful, it sits heavy in your stomach, drags your heart low, and leaves your head an empty mess. While he would have loved to tell them “no way” and find a safer way, this was the last chance.
There was only one other person in the waiting area. A young man who looked rather pale and wore a white button up and black pants, his blond hair nearly translucent.
“Can I sit here?” Ray asked in a low voice, motioning to the chair beside him. The young man looked up and nodded. Now that he was sitting, he could see the man’s eyes were a worn steel blue.
“Are you here for someone?” He asked, attempting to start a conversation.
“You could say that.” The young man’s voice was nothing more than a whisper. “My lover is in surgery. They told me I was fine to move, and I’d rather be here than in those cramped rooms.”
“Did you have surgery too?” Though it might have been rude to ask, he received a nod.
“I donated a part of me, to save them.” The young man didn’t look phased or in any pain, simply leaning back in his chair and staring at nothing in particular. He looked…content.
The man looked to him, his eyes like the sky on a clear day. “My heart.”
Ray stared at him for a moment, until it finally registered in his hazy mind. “You’re…that’s certainly a hefty sacrifice.”
The young man closed his eyes and chuckled under his breath. His expression looked as one that was in a dream far from here.
“I wanted to see her smile again.”
Dancing in the Blue
Her form a shadowy wisp dancing across a veil of blue glass. I call, but no words form. I wave, but no motion comes. Isolated. Distant. Her faint form flickers and I worry. Worry that she will become as the others and fade.
Fade into the white world beyond, glowing with its silver sheen. If only I could fade with her. If only I could cross this ocean of glass. Maybe then I could join her and join them. If only…
But I am alone in my prison of glass. All things revealed to me, yet none allowed for me to touch. Alone. I feel caught beneath the ice of a frozen river, able to see the world beyond, but not able to stay with it – Caught in the ever-moving tide.
It all fades eventually. Only she now lingers, dancing in the blue. Where once tarried many, one now remains. Why? Why does she torment me so? Dancing, dancing in the blue. Soon the white city will call. Soon she will leave and fade. Soon I will be alone. Truly alone.
I can no longer remember who I was before the glass… before the blue. I no longer remember those who lingered here, and I no longer remember her. I see only her shadowy form, her long dress flowing, dancing, dancing in the blue.
I sense the white world calling her, the distant city radiating silver light. But here she stays across my prison dancing in this deep blue. For so long have I watched, observing as all things fade. And what have I done?
What can one do in this deep glassy blue, alone, and isolated from all things?
What can one do?
What can one do… except…?
Except dance, dance in this deep blue.
Dance with her; Dance with them; Dance with us; Dance in this deep glassy blue.
She flickers and fades, claimed by the white world, but I dance. I dance. I dance for her. I dance for her in the blue. And I fade
Fade in the deep glassy blue.
How To Cheer Up A Demigoddess
So, Nyraniel knew how smiling works. You use the muscles in your face to make the corners of your lips curve upwards.
But how do you make someone else smile?
They thought long and hard about this predicament, sneaking several three-eyed glances at the girl with the comb jelly skin. Mirana was staring at her reflection so forlornly, and they knew she must still be wishing for her former goddess status back. Really, they couldn’t stand seeing her like this, so they did something about it.
First, Nyraniel tried to make something for her. Their god-of-art friend helped with the painting they produced, but when they showed it to her, an abstract representation of her beauty… She didn’t get it. She had no idea it was even supposed to be her.
Next, after talking with a godfriend of a godfriend, Nyraniel tried their hand at cooking. Now that she was a demigoddess, she needed to eat mortal food, so surely this had to work… It tasted weird and terrible. She actually fell sick from it, and Nyraniel had to take care of her.
While she was recovering, Nyraniel sighed, holding a wet cloth to her head as they continued to think. How else could they make her smile? Laughter? Perhaps they could do something funny, or, no, maybe they could do a funny play—
They jumped, so shaken out of their thoughts that they shot up and slammed into the branch of a tree, before slowly fluttering back down, their three eyes tearing up from the pain.
But through the bleariness, they saw it.
She was laughing. She’s smiling!
“Are you alright…?” she asked softly, barely holding back a giggle.
Nyraniel smiled back, internally congratulating themself as they patted her head, despite the light throbbing in their own.
“Yes, yes, I am now… ah, are you?”
Mirana nodded, just a little.
“Yes… I feel a little better.”
“A little better is better than not at all,” Nyraniel replied with a grin.
This was indeed better already. It won’t last long, but it’ll last long enough.
Smiles Come and Go
By Jesse Fisher
“If not for this heathen being truly a corruptor he would have died long ago.” The head priest Goraidh thought as he watched the battle below him.
The wolf’s bladed phalanges did make the sword strikes of Griorgair useless even with the fact that the Wyriffion was far stronger. Goraidh had wanted to hold a contest to see who would sire the next generation of ‘gods’.
Grangal was the last of the previous generation and the only female, thus Goraidh’s family groomed the young deity for hundreds of years to this point that she would be ready for her selected purpose to become a mother goddess of the next generation. A small smile creeped onto his beak as he wanted it to be a test of how long one to go but that might tip his hand, a ritual to secure him being the first to take her.
The smile faded as he looked down again, Griorgair was using the larger swords for support as the wolf just shot his own smile. Oh how the priest’s blood boiled seeing the smirk on the one who took his prize again, how screams of pleasure and pain meant for him were wasted on such a vile being.
Then the arena floor shook as it began to fall in on itself, as if gravity increased in a domino effect radiation outward. Goraidh wanted to hiss at his underlings for pulling it soon, his feline side was wanting to tear each of them to shreds for doing it too soon.
The wolf was quick to jump onto the walls as Griorgair took to the air, unfortunately Graeme was not recovered before he fell into a bubbling lava pit revealed from the ground shaking.
Grangal shot Goraidh a shocked look as she did not know of this feature of the arena, while many in the crowd just took it as the wolf using some dark magic to do this and kill Graeme.
The wolf had his own..
“I was just going to beat you to within an inch of your life, now it’s fried chicken.”
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
It had been a solid week
And she still had no new powers.
Daisy paced around her pocket dimension, trying to rehearse in her mind. How was she going to explain this to Marshal?
She flopped down onto the carpet in frustration. Why was she getting so stressed about this? Usually when it comes to talking to Marshie, everything was just so easy! They could talk for hours and hours and never grow tired of each other.
What made now different?
He’d been so supportive when she mentioned her magic. She’d been so scared, and he’d delivered a speech that rivaled HER in open mindedness. How could she just… not have anything to show for it?
She’d tried everything to get something new to happen. She couldn’t get it to move out, she couldn’t get it to go anywhere, and she just couldn’t get it to do anything new! She tried as hard as she could to make a change… but nothing happened.
She couldn’t do what he asked.
She couldn’t fulfill his mission for her.
What was he going to think?
Well, no use in delaying the inevitable.
She summoned up a portal and hopped through, landing in Marshal’s living room. It took a little bit of exploring to find him, but she eventually heard his voice behind his bedroom door.
“Marshal, I’m He-”
“Woah, Wait, Daisy-”
She stepped into the room and tripped on something he’d set up. She fell into the structure with a crash and a crunch. The whole thing came apart around her, pieces cracking and supports crumbling. There she was again, at the center of a gigantic mess.
She panicked. She’d ruined everything. She’d failed again. He’d never want-
But Marshal laughed.
The corners of his mouth curled into an awkward smile.
She’d bowled into his life, screwed up everything… but he just smiled.
She let out a laugh herself, taking Marshal’s hand when he offered it.
Maybe she didn’t need to worry about failing with him.
Even if she messed up often…
She won his heart every time.
“The Toymaker and the Smile”
By Aaron Fleming
The toymaker Anton LeMarchant pushed away the small android figure in frustration. It’s A.I. was supposed to be friendly with a playful demeanor. It sat there expressionless as an old-fashioned plastic baby doll. What was he doing wrong? What had he overlooked in its design or programming?
“Maybe I just need a break from all this,” he muttered to himself. “I’ve been at this in near isolation for weeks on end. First, I should get in touch with the outside world.” Anton touched the holographic glass wall before him and navigated to check his messages. One hundred and forty messages the screen showed. He sighed and began to go through the messages and deleted various junk mail as he went.
As he parsed through the messages something caught his eye. The message title read “We are sorry for your loss.” He activated it and saw the body of the message which read, “We are sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your wife. We send our condolences.” Anton stopped reading the message. This had to be a mistake. His heart raced as he scrolled down the list of messages, one condolence after another. Finally, among the older messages he found one from his brother. He activated it and began reading.
“I know you’re away working on your current project, but I have some bad news. There’s been an accident involving your wife Anne. The doctors tried to save her, but there was little they could do due to her injuries. I’m so sorry Anton.”
Anton felt the blood drain from his face as he leaned on his chair for support. Anne was dead? In the bluish light cast by his workstation he looked up and saw the android doll on which he had worked so hard. It was reacting to his emotional response. It was smiling.
“Soothing the Dragon”
Minerva stood silently outside her husband’s study. It had been hours since he chased his officers from the room, brandishing his cane, and locking himself within. She placed her ear to the door.
“Why?” she heard him speaking to himself. “Why would he do this? He must have some cause – no. We did this. We told him to raid the Spaniards. God!” He ranted on and on, as he too often did. “We were no better in our time, why do we lament this, Arthur? Because we are supposed to redeem ourself, not persist in this hated cycle!”
Arthur. Minerva had met him once, long before he was king, before the sword, before the memories of dead men wracked his mind. Back then, she pitied him, that poor unrepentant vagabond; now, she worried for him. She knocked gently on the door.
“Arthur.” she said. “Let me in.”
The ranting ceased. For a long moment, there was silence. Then, the locks on the door clicked before the door opened. Before her stood a man, clothes askew, his hair thrown about. One teary, brown eye looked back at her, and next to it was a socket covered over in scarred tissue.
“We-” Arthur began, “I will not deny you entry.” He seemed to be forcing the words out. Minerva entered. “The news my officers gave-”
“Sit down.” Minerva said, cutting him short. She did not want to know, not now. Arthur sat down. “And where is your eyepatch?”
“Our eyes are fine.” he answered, almost sulking. Men. Even if he weren’t half mad, Minerva figured he would say the same thing.
“So they are.” she said. She approached him, and laid her hands on his chest. His heart began to calm down, his breathing came less raggedly. “You’ve gone and ruined this shirt.” She began unbuttoning it. “I’ll have it sent to the tailor, later.” The shirt gone, Minerva saw the marks the fool had gotten himself.
She embraced her husband in a tight hug. He sobbed into her breast; he needed to cry. She needed to see him smile again.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
“Haven’t you ever heard of the smiling man?” Tony asked, leading the group as the sun set behind us.
“Just that it’s an old urban legend around these parts.” Lars replied.
“My parents told me the story. Just another boogeyman to scare kids.” Sam quipped.
“Man, why do we have to hike through this old forest just to tell scary stories anyway?” Lars asked.
“It’s tradition, remember? All our parents did it, even if they refuse to admit it.” Tony said.
“So… why do they call him the smiling man anyway?” Lars asked with apprehension.
“Cause he’s always smiling with a grin wider than his face.” Tony said dramatically.
“No dude, you’ve got it all wrong,” I finally piped up, “the story is actually based on some strange deaths that happened in these woods.” My pace quickened.
“Yeah, yeah the smiling man taking kids away and people finding their lifeless bodies with permanent smiles.” Sam continued.
“No dude, they weren’t kids. There are records. It was about a dozen adults within a few weeks of each other in September 1923. No cause of death ever found.” I pulled ahead of the group.
“A-and the smiles?” Lars stuttered.
“Yeah, all their faces were stretched and deformed into these huge smiles.”
“Man, Jack, why’d you have to go and make this so real?” Tony asked.
“Old stories fascinate me, I just thought you guys would want to know how it started.” Everyone went quiet. The crunch of foliage beneath their footsteps still trailed behind me.
“C’mon guys don’t be like that. It’s creepier when no one’s talking.”
Still everyone was quiet. And then I realized there was only one set of footsteps behind me. “C’mon that’s not funny guys.” I turned around and only saw the forest bathed in dusk. No one was there. I tried to steady my breath and listen. There was only the gentle rustle of the forest canopy.
A chilled breath ran down the back of my neck. The voice was like a foggy night’s breeze hissing through rattling autumn leaves, drawn into a long raspy word.
Machiko sat down on the stairs, struggling to stay awake. Her mom had to go back to the hospital after an incident the previous night, and Machiko couldn’t sleep. She thought very hard about not going to school today, but decided against it. If she stayed home, she’d be alone with her worries At least at school, she had something to distract her.
She pulled out a phone and saw that she had a voice mail. It was the hospital calling her back. Her mom was in stable condition, and was briefly conscious and coherent. Machiko hung up as she got the news, and the relief brought her to tears. Even still, as she cried, she wondered how many times she could keep going through with this.
“Hey, are you okay, Machi?”
Machiko quickly wiped her eyes and looked up. Kiyotaka Yone, the gangly first-year member of the Occult Club, was walking toward her.
Machiko quickly wiped her eyes again. . “Yeah. No, not really.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, I’m not good company right now.”
“Did you want to talk?”
“Not really, no.”
Yone rubbed his chin. “Well, that sucks. Senmatsu-chan thinks there’s a spirit roaming upstairs. She wanted to know if you wanted to help us hunt it, but I didn’t think we had a ghost of a chance convincing you.”
Machiko stopped wiping her eyes and looked at Yone incredulously. “Did…did you really?”
“Sorry, I just hoped I could help lighten your spirits.”
“I’m not really in the mood for…you did it again, didn’t you?”
Yone snickered. “I mean, if you don’t want to talk about it, the best I can do is tell dumb jokes.”
“I don’t have a choice, do I?” Machiko sighed.
“Sure you do. I just wouldn’t want you to tell me to stop, and then get haunted with regret.”
Machiko groaned. “These are dumb. Like, really dumb.”
“But you’re not crying anymore.”
The corners of Machiko’s lips curled up into a slight smile. “They’re still bad. It’s a good thing you’re cute.”
Yone froze. “Wait, what?”
Machiko’s smile grew. “Nothing.”
By L. L. Marco
Wind gushed through the open doorway. Charlie entered, eyes alert and fierce. Shadows danced around each corner, barely kept at bay by weak candlelight. The darkness didn’t scare her; no, there was one thing that Charlie feared and it had already happened. She was here to rectify that.
“Back so soon?” A lanky woman appeared with a smile flickering across her lips.
Charlie stood completely still as the mage approached her. Dalores raised a small candelabra and cast light over Charlie’s unflinching form. Crimson painted Charlie’s clothes; it was splattered in all directions, so fresh that it still dripped.
“Made a bit of a mess. It looks like you enjoyed yourself.”
Charlie clenched her fists. Nothing about this was enjoyable. It was simply what she had to do and this witch knew that. Charlie had vowed never to kill again when she met Claira, but now…
“We have an agreement. Let me see her.”
The woman nodded. Footsteps echoed through the chamber as Dalores led her to a metal door, humming some kind of enchantment over it. Thunk! The sound of the lock rang out as the door opened. She couldn’t hold back; Charlie pushed past the woman, her eyes desperately searching for the form of the woman she loved.
A dirty bed lay on the far end of the room. And on it was Claira, sitting perfectly still. That felt wrong. She’d always been so lively… Shaky feet carried Charlie to her wife. Claira was… empty. Blank eyes shimmered vacantly in the candle light; to anyone else, she might have been mistaken for a doll. Charlie’s bloody hand reached out and gently, fearfully cupped Claira’s face.
Warm. Her skin was warm and soft, unlike how it had been the last time she’d seen her. Tears fell from Charlie’s cheeks as she embraced her wife. The only response was a hollow, emotionless smile, but Charlie didn’t care. She was physically alive. And she would do anything to see that smile genuine once more. Charlie, stained in blood and holding the empty shell of her lover, wept.
“A loving memory”[Aleph null sci fi]
She’s dead… She’s actually dead…
What happens now? Am I… crying? This sucks…
Someone is talking to me. She was… killed in an accident at the construction site. A rope snapped and… and… and she was… crushed.
They’re still here. What is up. Why won’t they let me cry?
They say “she left something for you.”
On the table.
Wrapped in her standard over saturated wrapping paper.
On it, a note. “Keep this loving memory if you want to”
A love-loving memory?
I open the box.
A hologram AI disk is the only thing in it.
I take it home. I load it up. A hologram of her shows up.
A robotic voice echoes from the projector. “Hello my friend. I’m here to give you a smile and help you move on. Do what you need to be more OK. It wasn’t your fault. You got this”
Sh-she left me a message? I cry more.
She continues talking in the robotic voice “Cry as much as you need.”
This hologram can respond? Is it an AI approximate? “she bought an approximate… for me?”
The tears fell faster.
The robotic voice continues “Anything for a smile, right?”
“Anything for a smile.”
I wiped the tears of my cheeks, but more soon replaced them.
I… don’t know if I can keep this. It’s painful, but also… somehow comforting?
My tears dry off. Anything for a smile, huh.
I look up. Our picture on the wall. We’re smiling, in front of the Eiffel tower.
I think I’ll be hanging onto this disk for a while.
By Astrid Jones
The glow of the alarm clock illuminated Sarah’s sleeping face. It was just enough light that Gus could see the tear tracks on her cheeks. She had told him on the phone she was watching “The Fox and Hound.” She always cried during that movie. But that had been hours ago. Now, here she was, one of his shirts wrapped around her, asleep in his spot, eyes still swollen from crying. The movie had been a cover.
Silly woman, he thought, smiling as he undressed for bed. She would never admit she had cried because she missed him. No, his Sarah was too strong for that. But he knew better. He knew his wife was a beautiful, emotional mess behind her walls.
Gus slipped under the sheets, trying not to jostle his wife too much. He wasn’t supposed to be home for another two days. But he couldn’t bear waking up one more morning without her smile to greet him. The phone calls and pictures weren’t enough. He needed the real thing; the smile that reached all the way to her eyes.
Sarah murmured and rolled over, bumping into his chest. He wrapped an arm around her, tugging her closer, and planted a soft kiss on her temple. Her brow furrowed and she took in a deep breath through her nose.
“Gus?” she whispered. “Are you really home?”
“I’m really home, sweetheart.”
“Good.” She snuggled closer and her breathing evened out as she went back to sleep.
Gus looked down at his wife’s face. Even though she wasn’t awake anymore, it was there; the smile he would do anything to keep seeing.
“Into Blue Terror”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Tobias dived, the swirling navy blue chaos of Dinyah swirling around his white werewolf form. He had to find it. If he searched deep enough in the Unconscious Sea, he could minimize the damage to Dinyah as a whole. Tobias forced his will upon his surroundings, and the sensation of swimming stopped. Some of the swirls around him twisted tighter and tighter until it became pure blue motes suspended in midair.
The white werewolf looked around at the dots before choosing one. A gentle voice shot through his mind.
The lycanthrope’s eyes widened. Quickly, he reached out and took the marble-sized orb into his large hands. Effortlessly, Tobias crushed the mote and drew a doorway, hands still together. Shards floated out of his grasp, gathering and reforming into an old door. Soft cooing echoed from the four dark blue walls, which rippled like water as Tobias entered. The air sung as if electrified. This place was dangerous. Tobias felt the lump in his throat tighten as he saw what he had come for: a cradle. The lycanthrope nervously stepped forward to peer inside. A small baby looked up at him with a smile.
Tobias’ heart beat faster and faster. Could he really take this? Time was running out; the piscine horde of the Vast Deep would make landfall within three days. And yet, someone somewhere would never remember their child’s first smile again? It made Tobias sick just to think of it.
The white werewolf looked down again. This wasn’t just for him. If the Vast Deep’s forces succeeded, the entire world would suffer a deluge. Taking this smile meant protecting every smile. Tobias thought back to his hometown. His fellow oneironauts. All of the humans he freed from demonic influence. Rot…
Tobias focused, creating a bubble around the cradle. Immediately, the walls screamed in horror, their noise reverberating around the room. The lycanthrope howled in pain as he shrank the bubble to a carriable size. He grabbed it and bolted out the door.
Tobias launched himself up, bauble in hand. Now, to get it where it belonged.
How You Smile
I wonder how many people naively wish to be in my shoes right now? I was assigned to Orbit Station Niner-Delta in order to create “amiable relations” with our newfound allies, along with their representative, Kail. God only knows why my superiors thought an arachnophobe was the ideal candidate to room with a human-sized spider.
“John, do you not like my gift?”
I look up in trepidation, gently cradling the silken rope in my hands. His spindly legs coiled tightly, many eyes glaring at me over his twitching mandibles. He sounded threatening, adrenaline kicking my heart into gear.
“N… No, Kail. It is wonderful. You really did not have to… make… this for me.” I shudder a little, trying not to think too hard about it. I look at him wide-eyed, the hairs on my arms rising.
“I am glad you like it so much!”
His legs uncoil, stretching his form back to full size. I nearly pass out.
“H… here, I also…” I shakily hold out my wrapped gift.
Taking it with his front legs, Kail begins unwrapping it swiftly. He does not rip the wrapping, instead unfolding it with deft precision and speed. I choke down the bile in my throat as the unwelcome image of him unwrapping me in a similar way arises into my mind. He has never harmed me, but…
He holds the gift gently, his many eyes staring up at me. He had been so enamored with my stories about superheroes, and the few comics I had shown him, I decided to make him a cape with one of my spare blankets. His pupils dilate, the hairs on his legs and body standing on end. A sickening feeling drops into my stomach. Have I offended him? Is he going to kill me? He pulls the cape closer.
“This is the most amazing gift I have ever received.”
Kail stands upright on four of his legs, making him look even more massive, his remaining arms resting at his waist in a very ‘superhero’ pose with the cape hanging behind him.
“How do I look?”
“For Her Smile”
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Sam shot up at the sound of her phone buzzing on her bedside table. Flipping it open, she read the contact name and immediately answered.
“Roselyn, it’s late—”
“SAM thank goodness you picked up!” Roselyn’s voice made Sam flinch. “I just got out of a fight with my mom because I broke a thing on accident while I was practicing and she said mean things and I said something mean and—”
“Woah, woah, hey,” Sam whispered. “Start from the beginning. What were you practicing?”
“Self-defense stuff. For gym class.”
“Oh.” Sam winced. She’d tried to forget about that. “Continue?”
Sam listened to the whole story without interrupting. Her hypersensitive hearing came with the bat ears, but truly listening was something her father had taught her.
“And then she yelled at me, and I yelled back, and… I can’t lie to you. I’ve been crying since.”
“Roselyn…” Sam took a deep breath and forced a smile. “You can lie to me. Welcome to the club, we have snacks.”
“Sam! Don’t say things like that!” But Sam caught a small giggle from Roselyn’s end of the call.
“Sorry, sorry. I just wanted to make you laugh. I hate it when you’re this sad.”
A quiet sniff came through the phone. “…Really?”
“Of course! Tell you what,” Sam stood up and stretched, “what do I need to do to make you smile?”
“Uh, um…” Roselyn paused. “This sounds stupid, but…”
“It can be stupid. I don’t mind.”
“…I want a hug from you. They’re always so nice.”
Sam froze. “Really?”
Roselyn sighed. “I know it’s stupid, and close to midnight, and—”
“And? Third quarter moon. No clouds.” Sam threw on a jacket. “I’ll be there soon.”
“What? NO! You don’t know how the whole ‘riding on moonbeams’ thing works! What if you—”
“About that,” Sam opened her window. “The moment I told my siblings about it, they immediately started messing around. I’ve already won two games of moonlight tag.”
“I—you can’t be serious.”
“See you in twenty!” Sam hung up and leapt into the night, running on the light of the moon.
Fool For You
Morgan felt a slight panic. He already fucked up twice now. The host of the karaoke night gestured to him while talking to the rest of the club. “It’s alright my man! You got one more shot at this. Come on everyone, let’s give him some encouragement!”
He could hear the other patrons cheering, but it pissed him off. It was all condescending. He wanted to turn around and scream at all of them. But then he saw Rihonnan.
She was smiling, but her eyes…
It wasn’t enough. He couldn’t fuck up now. He never wanted to ever see that sad look in her eyes. He gave a thumbs up to the DJ. The crowd sounded distant as they cheered. He looked at the screen and felt the beat in his feet.
He nearly fucked up again, almost starting early. But he kept going, ignoring that his pitch was slightly off. His feet began to tap to the beat and his hips began to move a bit. He felt the music. It was almost like feeling the rhythm of combat.
After the first phase was done, there was a small break in the lyrics. He grabbed his breath. The crowd sounded excited, but even more distant to him. He started singing again but he soon found his feet shifting. Was he dancing? Wait, was he actually dancing in front of a crowd of people?
The lyrics seemed to flow out of him as a strange sense euphoria came over him. No. He wasn’t singing in front of a crowd. He was singing because it was kind of fun. He was singing for the one he loved most.
However, his voice gave out near the apex of the song. But at that point, it was already over. The crowd cheered for him and he wanted to die of embarrassment. But then he looked over and saw Rihonnan, smiling with tears in her eyes.
He walked over to Rihonnan when the crowd died down. He sat down next to her. “Sorry I surprised-”
She shut up his foolishness with a kiss.
“For the Emperor” Submitted by Connor/Dragoneye
“You. Monist. To the block.”
Cato trudged up the stairway, hands and ankles bound by chains. As he hesitated, a soldier shoved him upwards, causing the prisoner to nearly trip on the stairs. Cato then regained his footing and climbed towards the figure hefting a sword.
Beside the executioner was a woman, wreathed in long, gold-trimmed robes. “Do you have any last words to be heard by the Exalted Four?”
“The only divine one that can hear anything is our Emperor.”
The crowd’s roars grew louder, shouting “Heresy!” and “Death to the Monist!”. The priestess sighed before asking, “Then do you have anything else to say to… anyone?”
Cato’s heart thrummed hard enough that it nearly burst from his chest. “People of Morcidul!” he shouted.
The priestess raised her hand towards the crowd. Their bullying fell silent.
“Hear me when I say that we were once united under our dear liege’s power. But, now you say his power is not just his own. Has his dragon’s blood grown thin? Does that mean he should no longer be our leader? I stand by my words when I say that our Emperor is our only god, but to cast aside the once-powerful name that was the Imperial Dynasty? Have you lost sight of what they’ve done for us? They’ve led us into many battles, together and without fear. They’ve provided plentiful harvests and peaceful seasons. Do you agree with me?”
The crowd failed to stir, and the once-ravenous speech remained quiet.
“Feed the blade,” the priestess commanded.
Cato’s neck was pushed down onto the chopping block. “One who bears the blood of our enemies, give unto me your divine blood and spirit, as mine will be spilled for our people. Glory to the Emperor and our Empire.”
“On Tour: A Wyrd Tale”
By William Maitland
Sugar closed the door of her hotel room behind her. She left the lights off. The quiet dark was a welcome refresher from the blazing lights of stardom. The solitude, more inviting than the millions of staring eyes. Falling on the bed, still in her sweat-soaked stage regalia, she began to cry. It was all she had the strength left to do.
Then HE entered. By whatever doorless means at his disposal, he entered the hotel room. He hummed that damnable song, the one that got her into that mess. Mocking her.
“Sugar! How’d the show go, darling?”
“You… This isn’t what I signed up for. I didn’t want THIS!”
“Oh, you sweet summer child…” He chuckled. “This is how it happens. You wanted your songs to reach the masses, to make EVERYBODY happy. That means you wanted FAME. And these days, FAME means you get up on a stage and…” he swayed his hips in a mocking manner. “Shake it for ‘em. Face it, Sugar. You signed on far too late to be America’s sweetheart. Now, America’s your sugar daddy.”
She pulled at her hair. “This isn’t what I wanted! I wanted to at least be the one SINGING my songs. I didn’t even WRITE half the ones they have me lip-synch up there…”
He whistled. “Damn, you still got HALF? Lucky girl!”
“Let me take it BACK!”
Wyrd couldn’t help but make one more push. “Uh-uh! No take-backs, in my line of work! You struck for fame, and sold your soul to more people than just me. But hey… look at all those smiling faces.”
She looked at him with silent, murderous intent.
“Thanks to you, millions of desperate teenagers have an idol. Dozens of corporate suits have a steady pay. And me? I get to treat the wife to a fancy dinner tonight! Everyone wins. Everyone’s smiling… except you.”
She picked up the TV remote and threw it at him. He vanished, and it smashed the mirror of her vanity. His mocking laughter echoed in his absence.
A curious creature stands in the middle of the school’s main hallway. His legs are trembling underneath the thick orange cloth, and his feet feel sweaty in those oversized rubber feet. He feels the heat of having to be stuffed in an old body suit, patches of its yellow plumage having fallen off, leaving behind him a trail of bright yellow on the tiled floor.
Standing in the crowded hall like a human-sized traffic cone, practically screaming ‘Look at me!’, students naturally start gathering around him, taking pictures and jeering, laughing at the out-of-place character. One girl in particular, however, wasn’t as happy. Urged by a friend, Rebecca now stands inside the circle of onlookers, face-to-face with the strange fowl.
The creature places a hand (or rather, a wing) on its beak and lifts it up, revealing David’s face underneath the avian facade. Rebecca crosses her arms in disdain.
“You look ridiculous.” Rebecca remarks.
David simply shrugs, his usual stupid look on his face.
“Why are you even doing this?” Rebecca says, a tinge of anger in her voice.
David zips his suit down a bit and reaches inside for a large poster board on his torso. He then holds it up, revealing the words “I’m sorry, I clucked up.”
“Pffft… ” Rebecca tries to hold back, though her snickers keep seeping through. Soon enough, she bursts out laughing.
An uproar of shouts and cheers from the crowd fills the air, but for David, all he hears is that warm laughter from Rebecca. Embarrassing as this situation may be, to him, it was all worth the trouble.
Hopefully, good times
The boy had visibly recovered. No longer could Syrus see the bones of his cheeks press against the skin, and the angry red lines of scars had faded away into pale reminders.
He indeed seemed back to full health…if it weren’t for the quiet, empty long stares into nowhere. When outside the children of the village played, he sat inside, huddled in a blanket in Syrus’s big armchair.
With a bit of prodding and sweet-talking, Syrus had gotten him to start practicing his writing and language. And whilst the boy worked diligently, he still seemed distant and wooden. Like a puppet.
Soon nearly an entire year had gone by, an entire year since the boy had stumbled into their village.
And as Syrus sat over his papers one late night, he hatched an idea to maybe improve the boy’s mood.
The next few days were busy-talks with the baker and haggling with a stubborn hunter that kept Syrus busy and left his purse considerably lighter.
On the dawn of the anniversary he rose early, preparing their small dining room for his plan and, as everything was done, the boy was carefully opening the door to peer inside.
The child looked up, taking in the contents of the table.
A big white cake rose up from an equally big plate, and whilst its rim was decorated with various fruits, in the center rose 10 burning candles.
Eyes widening at the sight in wonder, the child sat down on the chair in front of it. Whilst the cake was enticing, the object which now held the child’s attention was a small covered woven basket. And the note attached to its handle.
Leaning forward, he deciphered the letters.
>For Excelsius, happy birthday.
Then that basket…shook.
Syrus smiled as the child’s eyes widened even further.
Something bopped the lid from below,causing it to slip aside and off, revealing a wet sniffing snout.
Excelsius reached into the basket, pulling out a small brown fuzzy-furred puppy with long floppy ears.
Very slowly, a smile spread on the boy’s lips.
A dim grayness materialized. He was in a room. No, not a room, but what? A space? The gray space seemed empty and endless yet felt like it was pressing against him. The grayness was in his mind, too. He tried to think, but the images were fragmented. He pressed his palms to his forehead. Images cycled too fast to hold: An orange pill bottle with a white cap, his wife’s key on the counter, a small coffin being lowered, a frowning doctor and…
A hand rested on his shoulder and a voice spoke, “Son.”
Startled, he snapped his head. “Dad? Where am I?”
The older man gestured. “We have to talk. Sit.”
There was a chair behind him so the younger man sat and said, “Dad, I… I don’t understand.”
The older man remained on his feet. “Son, this is just a moment. It will pass but what comes next…” He leaned closer. “your actions, what you did…”
The younger man closed his eyes and the image flashed: the empty orange bottle, the popping sound when it hit the tile.
“…the choice you made has consequences. What you have put into motion will grow evermore suffering.” The older man continued, “He wants to know why, Son. Why did you do it?”
Another memory came to him: soft curls, ruddy cheeks, a small hand wriggling into his and that beautiful smile. His fists clenched. “I couldn’t stand another day without her smile. I need to be with her.”
The older man nodded and spoke, “You are judged selfish but not baleful.”
The younger man stood, about to yell, but a small hand wriggled into his. He knelt and she smiled like an angel. He cradled her and cried as she spoke softly in his ear, “I love you, Daddy.”
The older man spoke again. “Son, this was just a moment. Where you are going next will be… longer. Keep her memory but let her go. What comes next is not for her.”
He set her down, and she was gone. Stygian heat boiled up around him.
Anything for her company
by Larissa (Lari B.Haven)
Zoella Alvarez watched the game with all the other young nobles in the main garden. It was a hot afternoon, all the girls drank tea and sat in the grassy field near the blooming roses.
The boy from England had brought a ball to play with the men the new fad they had invented overseas: football.
The noblewomen were used to being sidelined in activities like this, but Zoella felt isolated the most. The others didn’t like her, coming from a family of higher status. As the granddaughter of the Count, she needed to keep her composure and suppress her emotions. So, Zoella would swallow it up, all the thinly veiled insults, and respond with coldness and silence.
There was no one there that she really wished to be around. Especially that pompous new money from England. Always in the distance, trying to catch her sight in every other glimpse. During the match, it was no different.
“Fellow gentleman, by the rules of the house, the team that wins can ask for anything from the ladies in the audience.” He said confidently. “Miss Alvarez, I kindly ask that if I win – And I will win- that you give me the pleasure of your company tonight.”
Zoella still could not grasp why he was so interested in her, of all people, but she waited to see what he would do after that.
She didn’t really understand the game at all, but found herself surprisingly amused every time the red-haired English boy tripped over himself, trying to keep hold of the ball. She even allowed herself a laugh when the ball flew high and hit him square in the face. She couldn’t just hide behind her fan anymore and he took notice of it.
After a while, it was clear to her that he was playing badly on purpose. Even if all he got was a smile, it was worth the pain of a bleeding nose. Zoella took pity on the boy and went after him to offer a handkerchief:
“Carlos Anderson, you’ve won my favor, please be my company tonight.”
Smile for Big Top
“It’s not FAIR! I don’t WANT to go!” I scream and beat Papa’s back, but his arm presses me more against his shoulder. My tears feel like they’re being pulled down my face.
“Now, Davey, you stop this foolishness! We’ve had to hear about this from you for too long. You’ll see there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“It might be fun, honey.”
“Please, Mama!” I reach for her, but she only holds my hand.
“Three tickets, please.”
“Glad you made it! We leave early next week.” The woman’s voice is low. Dangerous.
“Thanks.” Papa walks on.
“Enjoy the show!” The woman waves one of her eight arms. A smile stretches her spidery face.
We find seats close to the ring as the lights go out. Papa sits me next to him and keeps me in place with his arm around my shoulders. Mama sits on my other side.
A spotlight shines, and the three-eyed man steps under it. “Ladies and gentlemen! Children of all ages! Welcome to Big Top’s Black Magic Cabaret!”
The crowd cheers as the show begins. Tentacled creatures ride skeleton animals with organs showing. Four-winged bats drop balls of red liquid for the monsters to balance. The crowd screams in excitement.
“Isn’t this fun, Davey?” Mama asks through a smile.
I shake my head and cover my eyes. Many more things happen, but I don’t look.
“Aren’t they wonderful, folks?! For our last act, I’d like a volunteer!”
Lots of people shout, but I cover my ears and hide against Papa.
Mama shakes me. “Davey! It’s us!”
The light blinds me, and I try to run away, but Papa carries me to the middle of the ring as the crowd goes wild. I shut my eyes tight.
“Sir, madame. Into the box, please.”
Papa puts me on the ground, and they are gone in a puff of smoke when I turn around.
“NO! Give them back!” I cry and shake with anger.
“Smile, and I will.” Big Top grins.
I face the crowd. My heart races. Through my tears, I smile until it hurts.
A Night on the Town
By Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
A slider on the door opens.
“Password?” says a rough voice from inside.
The couple look at each other for a moment before the woman speaks up.
The slider closes quickly and the door opens.
“Welcome to: The Black Widow.” the voice says and the two head inside.
The two leave the 21st century alley and find themselves face to face with an honest to God 1930s speakeasy. It isn’t a very large place, but it still has a live band playing some fast jazz for the few couples on the dancefloor.
“Let’s get some drinks?” The man asks.
“Not yet!” the woman pouts. “Come on, George. Don’t you wanna dance a little?”
“I dunno, Anna.” George says as he grabs the back of his head. “Last time I got on a dance floor, it didn’t exactly end well…”
“Come on, George. Live a little!” Anna says, looking right into his eyes. “This is already our third date, and you haven’t even had a good laugh with me.”
She looks down a little. “I’m beginning to think you don’t really like hanging out with me.”
“That’s not true at all.” George says. “I guess I’ve been feeling a lotta stress recently.”
Anna gives him a quick hug. “It’s ok, sweetie. Let’s have a few drinks, and THEN a dance?”
George finally relents. “Fine. Just one!”
The two head to the bar, and enjoy some of the old-timey drinks they offered. Soon enough, the band starts playing “Sing Sing Sing” and the dance-floor really gets moving.
“Come on, George!” Anna says, pulling him out of his seat. Ignoring the look of horror on her date’s face, Anna grabs both of his hands and begins moving along with the music. Before long, the two rule the dancefloor with their moves.
Anna smiles. “I’d never thought I’d see you dancing!”
George laughs. “Anything for y-.”
Anna’s smile disappears as she plunges her hidden knife through George’s heart, killing him instantly and turning him into a pile of ash.
“It’s so hard to get vampires to smile these days.”
Most Valued Treasure
By Giovanna J. Fuller
A woman, young and fair, sat upon a throne next to the king who had taken her as his wife. Since the morning their engagement was announced to the kingdom, she had not smiled. No light danced in her eyes and her mouth was a hard thin line. After the wedding, the king begged on bended knee to once more see the smile that had so stolen his heart.
She would not answer, so her handmaiden told the king “A wicked wizard stole her smile. He wished to have her smile for himself and when she would not give it freely, he took what he wished by the threat of his power.”
The king wept bitter tears. The best doctors in the land tended to her. They said that she could smile again, if given a reason. So, the king’s advisors proposed a contest. Whosoever could bring a smile to her face could have the most valuable treasure in his castle. However, if they failed, then the king would have their head placed upon a spike.
So comedians, jesters and fools from all over the world tried and died in their efforts to make her smile again.
Now, a man dressed in a coat the color of the night’s sky came to the palace. He bowed low before the two thrones and said, “Your majesty, the reward for her smile is the most valuable treasure in the castle, is this true?”
“Yes, do you doubt your king’s word? Many have tried before you. When you fail, I’ll enjoy removing your head myself!”
The man took hold of his hood, “Your majesty, I can make her smile with my face alone.” He threw back his hood, revealing a face as plain as any other.
“Bah! A foolish boast!”
However, she smiled.
The king fell to his knees and wept for joy.
“And now, my king. I shall take my prize.” The man approached the woman and lifted her into his arms. “The most valuable treasure in your castle!”
And as he ran off, all could hear the woman’s joyous laughter.