Flash contest #16: Write about a character waiting for something, but don’t reveal what they’re waiting for until the end.
The week commencing July 20th (Daily Creativity prompt #86) was our seventeenth week of flash contests, with a challenge set by former contributor Ana Rowell, 15, who also helped us judge this week's contest. Thank you, Anna! This prompt produced lots of entries, all of them filled with suspense. You obviously all had fun structuring your stories to keep us guessing about what we were waiting for, and even who or what it was that was waiting (animal, vegetable or mineral)! Our favourites kept us waiting until the end to find out what was really going on; and made us go back to the beginning to pick up the subtle hints we might not have piked up first time. Well done everyone for your work on this challenge, and especially to our winners and honorable mentions, listed below. Read on after the list of winners to enjoy the winners' work for yourselves.
"Stalling" by Sophia Do, 12 (Lititz, PA)
"Rain" by Kyler Min, 9 (Vienna, VA)
"Waiting for a Comet" by Madeline Sornson, 13 (La Jolla, CA)
"From the Other Side of the Road" by Amruta Krishnan Srinivasan, 9 (San Jose, CA)
"Wait for it . . ." by Ian Xie, 12 (Weston, MA)
"The Waiting Game" by Elsa N. Ahern, 10 (Winnetka, IL)
"The Waiting Hill" by Liam Hancock, 12 (Danville, CA)
"Cats of War and Peace" by Sneha Jiju, 12 (Chandler, AZ)
"The Woman" by April Yu, 12 (East Brunswick, NJ)
"Something Worth Waiting For" by Mila Zhao, 6 (Blue Ash, OH)
Also, look out on our COVID-19 blog next week for "The Goal" by Ziva Ye, 9 (Overland Park, KS), which both responds to the contest prompt and tells a great story related to the current pandemic–from a very unexpected perspective!
Sophia Do, 12
Ella paced the floor. Come on, come on! she thought and started to jump and down. Hurry, hurry! People passed by and looked at her funny. Ella stopped jumping and stood up straight. Just act normal, she told herself. You can’t look suspicious. You never know who your enemies are.
“Hi,” a woman with a short pixie cut hair said. “Is this the women's?”
“Yes,” Ella said and crossed her legs. The woman walked to the back of the line that went out of the door. Ugh, why are the lines always so long? The Council really needed to rethink this.
“Hey, Ella!” A girl with blonde hair and blue tips bounced up to her, hands still damp from washing. “I thought you couldn’t come to the mall today?”
“Oh, hi Mary Anne ” Ella said, and silently cursed the Council. Why did they have to send her to the mall? “I thought I had to, um, visit my grandma.”
“I thought you said your grandma lived in California?” Mary Anne asked.
“My other grandma,” Ella fibbed. “What are you doing here?”
“Just hanging out with the girls,” Mary Anne said. “After you do your thing, do you want to hang out with us? We haven’t done a girls’ day at the mall in forever!”
“Oh, uh, sure,” Ella said. “I’ll meet you by the food court.”
“Great!” Mary Anne said and flounced out of the bathroom.
Why? Why? Why? Ella groaned. This is bad. Now I have to make up an excuse for why I didn’t meet up with her! A couple more minutes passed and Ella was starting to worry. If I’m not there in time the Council is going to kill me. Adam said the meeting is important. What is taking this person so long!?
Finally, the line moved forward and Ella was soon inside. She peeked under the first stall and saw it was occupied.
“Excuse me?” A small voice asked. “Do you mind if I cut in front of you?” Ella turned around and an older petite woman smiled up at her, adding more lines to her already wrinkled face. “I’m sorry, but I really have to go!”
“Oh, of course,” Ella said and let the woman cut in front of her. Ella bit her lip, hoping that the next door to open wasn’t the one that she wanted. Thankfully, the last door in the line of stalls opened and the little old lady walked in.
A few more minutes passed and another door opened in the middle of the hall of stalls, “Ms,” the pregnant woman behind her said, “that one’s open.”
“Oh, you can go,” Ella said, “I like this one.” She motioned to the one that she was standing in front of. The pregnant lady gave her a weird look and moved on.
Finally, the door that Ella wanted opened and a woman in red high heels walked out. Ella froze, what was Counselor Rylie doing here? Were they going to kick her out? Counselor Rylie brushed past Ella and shoved something in her hand.
When she was gone, Ella unfolded her hand and opened up the piece of paper.
Second Floor. Ella cursed, “Excuse me,” she said and pushed her way out of the room. She passed Mary Anne by the food court. “Are you done?” she called.
“No, sorry! Line was too long!” Ella called back and beelined for the stairs. Taking the stairs two at a time, she made a sharp right and screeched to a stop, staring at another long line. Wow, were they giving out free drinks at the food court today? she thought as she went to the back of the line. Minutes passed, but unlike the other line, this one moved faster. Ella looked at the piece of paper again to make sure that she was at the right one. What was wrong with the other one? She thought. We really need a better way to do this.
Finally, she was at the front of the line. Ella paced anxiously and when the door opened she rushed in. Ella put the lid down on the toilet and felt under the toilet paper holder. When her hand hit something hard, she looked under and pulled off a gold ruby encrusted key. Ella faced the toilet and counted five tiles from the flusher and then nine tiles to the left. She placed the key on the tile and the room began to spin. Oh good, she thought, the portal works.
Kyler Min, 9
Down came the drops, steady and cold, falling from the sky filled with lavender and indigo clouds, robbing the community of its brilliant greenish and brick-red hues, and replacing them with a washed-out foil-sheet-gray.
A baby let out a scream of joy and tumbled into the empty neighborhood street. Behind him, carrying a gigantic party umbrella, a boy was trying hard to keep both himself and the baby sheltered. His efforts seemed to be in vain. The boy was wet, and the baby was soaked.
A few minutes ago, when the rain had just started to fall, the baby stood in front of the door, repeatedly making the “open” gesture that he had recently learned. The boy glanced at the clock and hesitated. Then the baby started to whimper, then cried out loud, and finally banged his head against the door while screaming. The boy had tried all his tricks but none of them had worked. In despair, he sighed and let the poor creature outside.
The rain floated in cold waves; the boy didn’t know that the summer rain could be this chilly. However, the baby didn’t care at all -- he shouted, laughed and roamed along the empty streets, as if he owned the whole community. The boy, with a gloomy face, trudged behind his giggling little brother.
“Day, day, day!” the baby just discovered a small brook! The rain gushed down from the driveway and formed a creek flowing next to the curb. The baby threw the boy a joyful look and dashed into the stream.
Splash, splash, splash! The baby stomped on the water but didn’t realize one of his crocs went loose. Rapidly, the current carried the little blue boat all the way down to the curbside drain.
“Oh no!” The boy cried, as he threw the umbrella on the lawn and sprinted toward the shoe. Unfortunately, he tripped on a pebble and fell onto the hard asphalt pavement. The boy pressed his palm against his scraped knee while watching the shoe vanish into the sewage. Tears fell off his face. He couldn’t take this anymore.
“Daddy! Mommy! when are you coming home?”
Waiting for a Comet
Madeline Sornson, 13
The sky was an ink blue face painted with pearly white freckles that glowed despite the light from our car. That light dimmed as we slowed and stopped at the side of the road. I sat up and jiggled my tingling foot a bit as I pulled on my jacket. It had been a long drive up to Mount Laguna, the closest secluded place above the city lights. I had tried to read, but the tortuous mountain roads made my stomach twist and turn too. I ended up sleeping, and when I opened my eyes, I found myself in a mountainous, towering pine forest.
“Are you ready to go Madeline?” My mom opened her car door, then opened mine. “Make sure you have your jacket and your hiking boots.”
“I have them,” I said, getting out. “Make sure you have a flashlight. It’s dark out.”
My mom turned on her phone’s flashlight and aimed it at the hiking trail ahead of us. The sky shimmered with stars but the ground was pitch-black.
“We don’t have very far to go,” my dad said.
We walked down the path. I heard crickets chirp from all around us. I saw shadows in the trees and my mind put monsters in all of them. Not just monsters. Bears. I walked faster.
We paused a few times along the way to point out constellations. “There’s the Milky Way!” My mom said. “Wow! It’s so pretty,” I said. “And it’s almost hard to see with all of the other stars.” It was true. The Milky Way barely stood out against the thousands of scintillating stars that were never this bright back home. That was the very reason we had come all this way, But we hadn’t reached what we had come for yet. Our waiting was not quite over.
We walked a few more minutes, and then we reached a clearing with few trees. The starry sky gleamed gloriously, and my parents and I stood there in awe staring up at it. It was like a Van Gogh painting. It was like a saturated Google image. It didn’t look real.
I no longer felt afraid of the dark and the things that could be lurking in it. All I could see was the beautiful parts of the world around me.
My dad reached into his bag and pulled out a pair of binoculars. He helped me put them on, and adjust them, and point them to what we had been waiting for: the NEOWISE comet. Like the Milky Way, the comet was barely visible among the other stars to the naked eye. But with binoculars, I could see it clearly. It was a quick brushstroke of white, an artist’s finishing touch on a painting of the heavens.
“It looks like it isn’t even moving.” I observed.
“That’s because it’s so far away,” My dad said. “It’s like how planes look like they’re moving very slowly.”
I passed the binoculars over to my mom, who, after several minutes of admiring the comet, passed it to my dad.
And then I saw a brilliant streak of white. It was smaller than the comet, but much brighter. In a second, it was gone.
“I just saw a shooting star!” I said excitedly.
“Wow! Make a wish!” My mom said, squinting into the sky in search of any others.
I already had...
I wish to write a story that captures this magical night.
From the Other Side of the Road
Amruta Krishnan Srinivasan, 9
It was a nice summer day. I was playing in my yard, running around…well, basically being a kid. But something caught my eye. I noticed an old man sitting in his front porch and occasionally pacing back and forth. I didn’t pay much attention since almost everyone was basking in the sun. But this continued. He came out everyday to bask. It was a bit odd, but I forgot about it. I assumed he just liked the sun. I resumed playing without a care about his weird routine.
One day, I saw rain clouds gather. A big thunderstorm began. Rain fell down in clumps, drenching the sidewalk. Everyone was inside, all windows closed. However, the old man was outside pacing back and forth. His only protection, an umbrella. He watched the road carefully. He didn’t seem the slightest bit ruffled by the storm.
It had now become part of my daily routine. I looked outside everyday just to check if he was there. And, he was. My thoughts on his ‘basking’ now disappeared. Now, I started to think he was waiting, for something or someone. My imagination took control. Perhaps he was waiting for his son to come home or for his wife to return.
Everyday he looked outside peering at every car and truck from his front porch. No matter whom he was waiting for, his schedule didn’t change. Every morning, the old man looked hopeful. Yet, every evening all hope seemed to be sucked out of him.
Then one day, the door bell rang. A delivery man was standing outside, holding a parcel in his hands. I thought he would ignore the man, but he ran towards him and grabbed the parcel. As he rushed home and shut the door behind him, I almost missed the contented look on his face. The next day, his front porch was empty.
Wait for it . . .
Ian Xie, 12
I hear footsteps pounding down the hallway of the apartment building. They get closer, closer and closer.
“Yes, it's them” , I think excitedly. But at the last second possible, I hear the footsteps turn away from my apartment. As the sound of footsteps banging on the floor fades to nothing, I worry that Thomas won’t come home, that he doesn’t care about me anymore.
I mentally slap myself and my brain tells me, Shut up Max, don’t think like that. I kill time by going into the kitchen to eat the rest of my lunch and then see that I have already eaten all of it. I sigh then sulk over to the couch. I wish Thomas was here to play with but he isn’t.
I plop myself onto my bed and lay there thinking, WHEN WILL HE GET HOME? Putting my head down, I get in a comfortable position, soon enough, I fall into a dreamless sleep. DING!!!! My peaceful sleep gets interrupted by the elevator bell. It must be Thomas this time. I rush to the door hoping to get there before him.
I wait at the door but the only person that passes is the old cleaning lady. I silently cry before going back to sleep. Right when I thought all hope was lost, I hear people talking in the hallway. It isn’t them, Max, they have forgotten about you, my inner voice says, and for once, I agree with it.
But then I hear a 11-year-old-ish voice ask, “Max?”
“Thomas!” I yell.
“Woah, woah, slow down and stop barking, Max,” Thomas says.
Then I see another boy standing next to Thomas who asks, “You never told me you had a dog.”
“Well, now you know” Thomas replies and we all laugh. And everything is good, because Thomas is home from school (and he didn’t forget about me).