I procrastinated on my novel today by writing a short story. I’ll paste the prompt that inspired it below. Enjoy!
Ten minutes I wasn’t dead, but I
wasn’t alive either. I could feel my heart, a cold, unmoving lump in chest. Its
thumping, which I never paid attention to when I was alive, had ceased and all
I could hear was the silence of death and the screaming of onlookers.
Both at the same time, I know.
Ten minutes ago I was alive. Not nearly dead. I had stepped out of my car, sunglasses perched on my head and scarf wrapped loosely to cover my hair.
There was a man on the street
corner, and I breezed by him like it was nothing. I didn’t recognize him, why
should I? But he lifted his fingers in a halfhearted wave and he looked so
despondent that I returned the gesture.
Ten minutes later, he stopped my
Ten years earlier. I was fifteen.
My parents left me in the care of my older sister for the weekend.
“Are you going to the beach?” I
asked. It was their favorite vacation spot.
“No.” my father was acting strange.
He had only packed a tote bag’s worth of things. My mother had the same. “We’ll
be back soon. It’s just… nothing for you to worry about.”
“Is something wrong?” I asked. My
sister glared at me. I could have sworn there were tears on her face, although
her glare was one of the perfectly angry young adult.
“Nothing, nothing.” My mother bit
her lip and turned away. She was blushing. She always blushed when she lied.
Ten years later, they rushed to my
side as I didn’t breathe.
Ten months ago. I was at the
doctor’s for a headache that hadn’t left in a week. She listened to my heart
“What?” I said.
“Nothing. Well, nothing to worry
about, at least.” She laughed and her laugh was nervous. Maybe I should have
considered a new doctor. Doctors with secrets are the doctors that get you
She seemed surprised. Was it that
unusual for a patient to demand information?
“Nothing,” she insisted. “I didn’t
sleep well last night. I had a moment of fog.”
I pulled on my jacket and left the
office in a huff, although my headache had subsided.
Ten months later, I lay motionless
as doctors prodded my still chest.
Ten days ago. I went to the mall
with my sister. We were behind a young couple that was laughing and sharing ice
I had mischievous look on my face. “Have any handsome young men approached Dad yet for me?” I said, half teasing her and myself, half serious.
Her eyebrows drew low over a sudden
glare. “No.” she dragged me into a store, away from the couple.
“What?” I asked. “You’ve talked to
men. Why can’t I?”
“It’s not—“ she dragged me further into the store, shoved me into the back between a mannequin and a display stand. She looked around furtively. I smacked her hand off me and pulled away from the wall.
“What the hell is your problem?”
She turned back to me. “You can’t
get married,” she said. “Mom and Dad have waited too long to tell you.”
“What? What are you talking about?
I can do whatever I want!” Within reason, of course.
She dragged a hand down her face. A curl of hair peeked from under her scarf. “Don’t let them know I told you this. But you just can’t get married. It won’t work.You’re not allowed. Stop thinking about it.” She fled the store before I could gather the strength to follow her.
Ten days later, and it was a man
who’d stopped my heart. My sister clung to my limp hand and sobbed useless
Ten minutes. My heart was dead. I
hadn’t breathed or moved. But I was not dead. I was still here.
They were hiding something. The man
was involved somehow, the man I’d never seen in my life.
He’d simply waved, and my heart had
slowed. He pulled back, and my heartbeat went with him. He ran, and I collapsed
to the pavement.
To hell with him. And my heart too.
Ten minutes was up. The man came
He waved again.
My heart started with a crack of
thunder and I shot upright. “You never told me!” I screamed. My parents
recoiled. The paramedics too.
I yanked off whatever paraphernalia they’d hooked me up to and jumped to my feet.
It was like I’d never been almost
The man was running but I ran after
him. My shoes were gone, for some reason. My scarf whipped in the wind. My
sunglasses, somehow still on my head, fell to the ground and smashed on the
“Stop!” I screamed, and he did. His
face was less pale already, his tired eyes less tired. Stubble dotted his
cheeks, which lifted in a weatherworn grin.
“I’m not from here,” I said. It wasn’t a question.
“Not quite, but you get the gist of
it.” When he spoke, he only used half of his mouth. In fact, half of his body
“You took my heartbeat. It was
meant for two.”
“Your family knew.”
“They lied to me.”
“People are changing. The world
changes. You were born to help, in your own small way.”
I put a hand on my chest. My heart
was still beating, but weaker than it ever had before.
Good. “It stops now, doesn’t it?”
He gave a two-fingered salute.
“You’ve done your duty. Forget it and live your life now.”
“I’ll live. But I won’t forget.”
“As you wish. I won’t be seeing
I gave a wave, a mockery of his
He didn’t bother running this time,
but rather fizzled out.
I felt my life, entirely my own. A smile rose to my lips.
I would deal with my family later, but for now I would count my blessings.
And my heartbeats.
The end! Here’s the prompt I used: Go inside the mind of a patient whose heart stops for 10 minutes, which gives the patient the chance to make a shocking discovery that reframes their life. Include supernatural elements, but do not dare use the phrase “the light flashed before their eyes,” or any other near-death experience tropes.
I don’t know how well I did the “reframes their life” but I think it’s alright. The prompt came from this list: https://thejohnfox.com/2016/07/flash-fiction-prompts/
Thanks for reading everyone!