Hello, Apneics and Hangmen!
Let’s hide in here! Shh. Hold your breath. If you even so much as exhale, it’ll hear you. Because….
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
No Time to Breathe
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!
This prompt is one that could lend itself to very intense stories, or very realistic stories. There’s even some surprisingly cute and/or silly directions I think you could take it.
Upon first glance, the prompt seems to have a similar idea to “no time to die.” Of course you have time to breathe—if you didn’t you’d be dead—but sometimes it feels like you don’t even have time to live, to simply be. You could take the prompt in a similar direction to the Bond film by that name—someone has to work so hard at keeping their loved ones safe that they don’t have time to truly breathe themselves.
This prompt could describe someone who is so busy, rushing from obligation to obligation, they are unable to find time for themselves to just relax and breathe. You could write about how this person feels, or you could write about a friend or family member of theirs trying to encourage them to stop and breathe, even though they don’t feel like there’s time. Perhaps you could write about someone who has one big obligation coming up, and preparation is so intense they don’t have time to breathe.
You could write about someone who struggles with a mental illness. Maybe they’re not busy, but their mind is causing them such stress they feel they can’t breathe. A panic attack could certainly represent the feeling that there’s no time to breathe becoming literal.
Or perhaps someone is talking so much that they don’t seem to take a second to breathe. One of the more cute directions you could take the prompt is someone laughing so hard that they don’t have the chance to breathe.
You could also apply this prompt well to being underwater, and knowing when to come up for air. Perhaps a whale comes up for air…only to see a whaling ship and realize that this is no time to breathe.
You could take the prompt in a very literal, and potentially comical direction. You could write a character so neurotic about schedules that they have scheduled in breathing time. This could work especially well when applied to some sort of inhuman creature that doesn’t have to breathe, but can choose to.
What are you doing?! I told you not to even exhale! …What? You humans need to breathe to live? Well, that’s…inconvenient.
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 Saturday at 3:00pm 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! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least five stories during each stream, two 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).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- 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.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- 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.
By Jesse Fisher
I felt my feet leave the ground as my head started to be pulled by the gravity, I almost forgot it was a thing. The momentum of the move was catching up to me. The world seemed to slow to a lagging video or a livestream that had dropped frames.
Ha, an unintended pun. I think that is what got me to this moment. My ‘humor’ was always off beat but this might be a first for me.
You know people say a good hit can stop your whole world for a bit. Well they are right, could not be more than a few microseconds and I’ve yet to hit the ground. Then again I’ve noticed some pain in my gut.
I can’t remember eating anything bad, and what was I doing again…oh right falling. I think forward? Well that would make sense, if gravity got my head and my feet are going up then I must have been hit in the gut.
I’m going to belly flop onto the floor, aren’t I.
And I just noticed the lack of air in my body so I can’t just expand my diaphragm to help take the impact.I could explain this like falling in love if I were to just ignore the punch.
Head over heels, stomach acting up, and breathless. A full beat for beat of the classic falling in love trope. Someone might get a kick out of it, but I doubt that would be the case.
A Moment To Breathe (A Song for: Kit)
The waxing crescent looked like a sleepy eye or an encouraging smile.
The cello strings and brass horns inside of Kit’s head guided her through the field of flowers.
She leapt, jumped, spun, and glided like she never had as a human. A soul-deep–did she even have a soul at this point?–smile lit up her face.
For once, FOR. ONCE, she was free of her Maker, even if it was only temporary. He was more than 3,000 miles away on business for the next month. She wasn’t sure why he’d left her run of the manor, but she was going to enjoy every second of it.
Kit fell into the flowers and stood again repeatedly. She rolled around and inhaled their alluring scents, loving how petals fell into her hair. Cartwheels and backflips were next.
Her jubilant giggles and howls to the sky rang out for miles. Nothing horrible could touch her here.
Spying a cluster of trees, she used her nails and small stature to scramble up a thick trunk to one of the middle branches. There, she settled, the hem of her midnight blue dress hanging over the makeshift seat and swaying in the wind.
Autumn was giving way to winter, her favorite season, and she was ecstatic to watch the colorful world sink into its final sleep and take a long, deserved rest.
Unleashing her curled, white hair from its ribbon, Kit took in an enormous lungful of crisp, fresh air, even though she didn’t have to. The enjoyment of the simple action was all the motivation she needed.
Wrapping the ribbon around her wrist and tying it off into a bow, she finger combed her strands until they flowed wildly.
Kit nestled herself back against the tree’s trunk and forced miniscule amounts of breath from her lungs until tiny wisps of smoke were visible.
Shooting stars crowded the sky. Kit hurriedly closed her eyes and wished for freedom. An escape from, or ending to, her suffering. She desired it so much that every fiber of her being vibrated.
For now, she could simply BREATHE.
The previous decade had taught people to keep their eyes down, their primary windows to the outside world the ones they carried in their hands. Gazes drawn down. Attention drawn inward. Until the day when a child at the playground pointed at the sky and called out, “Mommy? What’s that?” That turned out to be a meteor, the kind only paleontologists and science-fiction writers ever mentioned, hurtling toward Earth. Scientists scrambled to find a solution, but there was no way out. Despite the advancements of modern technology, they couldn’t save humanity.
Collectively, the world traversed the stages of grief. Some looted and burned. Some chased the experiences of their dreams. Others created capsules of memories to preserve their identities in case a future entity would discover the ruins of their devastated culture. Many gave up entirely.
But not Roger and Pearl. They continued living their normal lives, until the countdown clock reached its final day. Pearl packed a picnic, just like she had on their very first date, cold fried chicken, baked beans, and lots of garlicky pickles. Back then, she had hoped pickle breath would protect her from moving too quickly on a first date. It hadn’t, and three kids, seven grandkids, and four dogs later, she and Roger had been married for forty-nine years. Before they left, Roger tucked a bottle of wine into the basket. It had been bottled in the same year they were married, and he had been tending it in their basement for decades, turning the bottle and checking the cork. They had been saving it for their fiftieth anniversary, but given the circumstances, opening it a little early was understandable.
They put the last of their gas reserves into the car and drove out to the country. They found a lovely hillside overlooking a beautiful valley and the blazing sky. With 00:00:12:24 (the date he’d proposed) left on the countdown, Roger opened the wine, and filled their glasses. They sipped. It was nearly perfect, just like their lives together. It just needed a few more minutes to breathe.
A Goodbye Without Goodbyes (Illusions of Heroes)
by Gerrit (Rattus)
A loud knock on the door split the night like a thunderclap. Serennia watched her parents exchange glances, their eyes darting between the door, each other, and herself.
“Ryella, Athard,” the voice from beyond the door spoke, loud and commanding. “We know you’re in there. You’ve evaded us long enough, open the door.”
Serennia’s mother crossed the room to where her child was sitting on the floor. She knelt down, resting one hand on Serennia’s shoulder.
“Dear, do you remember the secret door in the basement?” Ryella spoke in a calm tone that contrasted the tension of the air. Serennia only nodded. “It leads to a secret tunnel. I need you to follow that tunnel as far as you can, and your father and I will meet you at the end. Okay?”
Serennia knew she couldn’t argue. She was too afraid to, anyway. She ran down the stairs as fast as her little legs would carry her, into the dark of the basement. She didn’t bother turning the light on.
Her parents had shown her the secret passage when they’d first moved in, less than a year ago. In the corner of the room, a section of floorboards were unattached, the seams invisible to the naked eye. Unless you knew it was there, you’d never find it.
Serennia lifted the makeshift door off the opening, setting it on the ground behind her. In the distance she heard a conversation in raised voices. A part of her wanted to run back and check on her parents, but she knew better.
She descended down the ladder, replacing the floorboards above her. This was far from the first time she’d been forced to move, and likely wouldn’t be the last. But it still wasn’t easy.
She didn’t know why these strange men were chasing her and her parents. They always said they’d explain when she was older.
In the years to come, she’d wish she had asked one more time. She’d wish her parents had trusted her with the truth.
Most of all, she’d wish she had said goodbye.
[Dm me on discord for details!]
The Bicker of the Brothers Richter
by Lee Strangely
The HMS Harker, somewhere in the Atlantic…
The clouds were dark, the waves rough, and the ship rocked with a fury. The guards kept close to the walls in an attempt to maintain balance. Neither of them looked too well. Both were pale, with distant looks in their eyes. One of them eventually gave out and ran out of the room, hand over their mouth as they sought out a container to spew into.
Will mocked them through the metal bars, “What’s the matter? Never been on the open sea before? Can’t handle a little rocking? Me and my brother here were raised in the middle of rural Illinois, yet we’re perfectly fine. Tell them Jamie!”
Only the sound of James relieving his own sea-sickness responded back.
Will cringed, “Yeah, that showed them…”
“Well,” James grumbled as he turned to Will, “there goes yet another ‘fresh start.’ This is becoming quite a beef you know.”
“It could’ve been worse,” he responded, striking a faux-heroic pose, “Yeah things didn’t go perfectly to plan, but defeat is momentary! Now, I’d say our voyage will take roughly a couple months. More than enough time to come up with a new plan!”
“That! That’s the beef! Why can’t you leave well-enough alone?”
“Because THIS isn’t ‘well-enough.’”
“Not well enough? We blew the country. We made a perfect escape and a new life, no longer having to worry about coppers, where we actually could stand still and breathe for once!”
“But we could have more!”
“More?!” James snapped, “We have more now than we ever did as kids.”
“I promised to put money under our names Jamie. I promised mom that I’d take care of the both of us, that I’d keep you safe.”
“And what a swell job you’ve done,” James quietly scolded him. As he did so, he adjusted his eyepatch while looking Will dead in the eye.
The Day Erin Decided to Quit Theater
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
“What’s up?” Erin asked. Her eyes stayed on the ripped seam she was patching on one of the actress’ dresses.
“Mrs. Rafflesia wants you backstage,” Connor said, panting.
“Thanks!” Erin tied a knot and cut the thread. “You handy with a needle, by any chance?”
“Uh…” He looked at his hands. “No?”
“We’ve had a lot of rips lately. Can you find anyone else who can sew, please?”
Connor looked back at the girl Erin had been helping, and realized there was a line of six chorus members behind her. When he looked back towards Erin, she was gone.
Erin entered the folding-chair audience of the school’s auditorium and called to the lighting crew. “Hey, did y’all get the spotlight filters working?”
“Uh, red only works on this one, and blue only works on that one!” responded one of the techies.
“Oh dear. If we don’t get that fixed by showtime, we’ll have to alternate spots. The hex bolt screwdriver’s in the toolbox, right?”
The techie nodded. Erin ran down the aisle and onto the stage. Before she could reach the curtains, she stopped to help move three set pieces, answer four questions, and fix a cardboard tree’s drooping canopy.
Erin fought through the curtains and the backstage crowd until she finally found the director. “Mrs. Rafflesia! You wanted to see me—”
“ERIN!” Rafflesia boomed.
The entire theater dropped dead quiet, if only for a few seconds.
“WHAT have you been doing? I’ve been incredibly busy doing the work I appointed my stage manager for! Are you slacking off in the audience, if that’s even set up? Come on, answer me!”
“… Mrs. Rafflesia—”
“Nevermind, I don’t want excuses! Get to work!”
Rafflesia took a sip of a frappuccino with Erin’s name on the order sticker. It had been a gift for opening night. Had she even noticed?
Erin lowered her head and turned away. Her eyes were burning with both rage and tears as she ran to the empty prop table, asking where the bucket of props had ended up with a forced smile on her face.
Speed is War (The Will) [CW: Violence]
All Zaila ever wanted in life was to be a hero—to be the one everyone could look to for an answer. Someone dependable, kind, and brave. Someone to look after the well-being of all life’s hopes and dreams. To be a protector of the innocent, and a symbol of righteousness so pure that it united all banners under a single goal: to promote life and happiness. It had consumed her dreams as long as she could remember.
She killed them.
The dragoness tore her claws through their throats—through their knees and arms—the warm blood splashing and cooling her scales as her legs pumped again and again, kicking off the walls and sending her flying.
Speed is war.
Zaila didn’t believe Eymir at first, but now it was clear to her. She didn’t need to crush rocks—just windpipes and bone. The flesh was soft at this pace, and how willing she was to smear it across the stones.
Eyes wide, her momentum carried her through the wooden door, shattering it and giving her cover to attack. There were three non-essentials—and HIM.
They tried to attack her, but something was wrong with her. She should have been dead hours ago from essence sickness, but now she could feel the power welling and expending within her, like breath.
She didn’t care.
When she was done with the puppets, leaving their broken forms in her wake, the dragoness approached her cowering prey, stomping and breaking the bones in his leg to prevent escape.
“Look at me,” she coldly ordered as her blood-soaked claw wrapped around her prey’s neck, lifting him up against the wall.
Zaila brought her other claw up to his chest, tips digging into the fur between his ribs. He knew what was about to happen. “Look at me,” she repeated, looking deep into his tearful eyes, “when I rip your heart from your chest—like you did mine.”
“He was just an old rat!” the prey screamed in fear.
“And you’re just another dead dog.”
Breathing comes so naturally to us all.
And yet, he fights for each breath that doesn’t come.
He doesn’t acknowledge the world fading to black around him.
He doesn’t acknowledge the once rhythmic beeps as they blend into a steady tone.
He doesn’t acknowledge when even that tone has faded.
He just keeps trying to breathe.
“You don’t need to breathe anymore. But if it makes you more at ease…”
Precious oxygen floods his lungs, and he realizes that it… doesn’t help. He still feels dread. He still feels cold. He still feels… like he’s been here before.
“You have.” The disembodied voice chuckles. “You got off with a warning last time.”
He pauses as he finally takes in his surroundings. Or lack thereof. All he sees is a seemingly endless void. And as he remembers his previous visit, he chuckles as well. “Yeah… I should have turned off the power before working on that outlet…”
Death appears before him and nods. “Yes. An important lesson learned.”
He pauses with an ominous realization. “I learned a lesson this time too.”
“Yes, you did. Unfortunately, this time you can’t return with it. Take my hand.”
He backs away, shaking his head. “Wait… I’m not ready. I have so much to do. I… made so many plans…”
“As do most. One is never truly ready for me. But I come regardless.”
“But… my wife, she-”
“She’ll be fine. She has her family.”
“She won’t be alone. She has her faith. And you are not her only son.”
“He’s… going to be pissed at me, isn’t he?”
Death sighs, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “It will be short-lived. Your brother has… other methods of grieving. He accepts your apology.”
“Can’t I just… get a little more time? It’s so close to Christmas. Can’t I challenge you to a game or something?”
Death chuckles again. “Firstly, it doesn’t work that way. Secondly, I’d destroy you. Even in basketball.”
“Oh? Okay, now you HAVE to play me.”
Death rolls her eyes, knowing his ego all too well. “Fine. One game.”