Calculated Risk – Submit Your Eleventh Short Story Today

We have written eleven stories in our 12 short story challenge. Number Eleven is going up today. Wow, only one more to go.

Well done writers! Special shout out to Elaine and all the crazies who decided to attempt this one in second person. I can tell you that I found it very hard, but enjoyed it a lot.

Submission process:

I will accept and approve posts for Calculated Risk (Word count: 1800 words) from 29 November 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time), until 30 November 2017, 8:00  (Johannesburg time) on  Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world.

Please use the correct format:

In the post title bar:              Story Title by Author Name.

Just above the story:             Prompt: XXXXXX | Word count: XXXXXX | Genre: XXXXXX

Warning to sensitive readers can go after that.

Can I join the 2018 group?

We will be writing more short stories next year. You are welcome to join us. Please sign up on 12 Short Stories. The first prompt for 2018 will be up in January.

Missed deadlines:

You can still upload stories for the previous prompts, but you won’t earn a point. To get 12/12 you need to submit on time, with the correct word count and have a story related to the prompt.

2017 Points:

Will all participating members please check their points on the site? I will be using those points to calculate your 12/12 score.


Good luck to everyone who is participating in the competition. Final deadline is 6 December 2018. You can still sign up here: 12 Short Stories Competition. The prizes are amazing.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s story below.
  2. Post your story on 12 Short Stories.
  3. Read and comment on at least four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
  4. This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
  5. Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
  6. Our next prompt is at the end of this post.

A few more points:

  1. I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
  2. NO hate speak. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
  3. Be careful of profanity.
  4. I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.

Here is my short story:

Title: The Woman In The Orange Dress by Mia Botha

Prompt: Calculated risk | Word count: 1800 | Genre: Speculative fiction

Warning: Violence, profanity, bullies and cowards.

You notice her as she lumbers out of the taxi. On flat feet, she plods along and reaches the escalator. You pause and wait for her to proceed. You are polite, but you still glance at your watch. She wrestles her foot onto the fast-moving step and clutches the black band. She’s off. You step onto the black foot plate and count as the 21 yellow lines are swallowed by the floor.

At the bottom, you dart past her and join the crowd. You are both swallowed by the wave of black and grey. You blend in, but she is very noticeable in her long, bright orange dress. You push your way through the crowd and go down the second escalator. You rush, because everyone is in a rush. You are on time, but you’ve learnt to adapt. To blend in.

The platform is full and you weave your way through the people. Finding a place, you lean against the wall and slip your earphones into your ears, just like any other guy in the station. You blend in well. You’re learning. You scroll through the list of songs on your phone, but you don’t play anything, the silence is a relief. You’re not used to everything yet.  You re-evaluate your day, your behaviour.  You acted accordingly.

The bright orange dress draws your attention again. She has made it down the second escalator. She shuffles past the people and makes her way to the front. The lanyards around her neck sway as she waddles. It looks like there are about seven lanyards around her neck. You glance at the other people, they only have one or two lanyards around their necks. Why does she have so many cards? You only have one. It is for the office building where you work. Yours is like everyone else’s. Why is she different? You must observe. You must learn.

You hold your phone and pretend to look at the screen, but you keep your eyes on her. She smiles as she ambles along the platform and greets her fellow passengers. Her hello is too loud.  You find her odd. You can tell the other people also find her odd. They say hello, but quickly look away. No one wants to be trapped in a conversation. Doctor Sloane explained this to you. Personal space is what she called it. You need boundaries. This person doesn’t have boundaries. You are proud that you know this. You are learning.

You glance at the notice board. The next train that passes through the station is 7 minutes away, but it doesn’t stop here. You have to get on the next train. You want to panic, but Doctor Sloane explained it to you. You are going to take the train after this one. Not all trains go to the same place. Make sure you take the right train. You have a map. You know.

The woman in the orange dress is talking to the person next to her. She is talking loudly. You can’t hear what she is saying, because you are wearing your earphones, but you can hear her voice. Loud voices aren’t appropriate. You must be considerate.

An even louder yell draws your attention to the elevator. A group of youths are being inconsiderate. They are shouting at each other and talking loudly. Louder than the woman in the orange dress. One youth sits on the black belt of the escalator as it goes down and jumps off just before the end. That is inconsiderate and dangerous. He jumps into the crowd and knocks a man’s briefcase out of his hand. He does not apologise or help the man. He laughs at the man when he bends down to pick up his papers.

The group pushes through the crowd. You remove your earphones to hear what is being said. You observe their clothing. Their pants are torn and they are wearing thick sweaters with hoods, but it is not cold. You touch your skin to confirm your body temperature. You are warm, but not hot. This is the expected temperature. You are dressed correctly.

The woman in the orange dress also watches the youths walk towards the edge. The people move away. They are even more reluctant to make contact with this group. The youths push and shove each other. They laugh when they anger the other passengers. You are confused. This is not appropriate. You watch. You must understand. They did not explain this to you.

The announcement speaker says that the train will pass in five minutes. You know this is not the train you are waiting for. You watch the sign as your train’s symbol appears. You are relieved. This is an odd day. You don’t want to be here anymore.

“No!” The woman in the orange dress speaks even louder. She is shouting at the youth who is wearing the black sweater.

“No!” She shouts again. “Put it back,” she yells.

You look, but cannot see why she is upset. The youth laughs and holds up both his hands.

“Put what back?” he is smiling when he asks her, but the smile is not right.

“You took it. It is not yours.” She is upset. She is shaking her finger at him. “You stole his wallet.”

She points to the man in the grey suit. The man puts his hand in his jacket pocket and is surprised. “My wallet,” he says, “it’s gone.”

The woman points, “It was him. I saw. He put his hand in and took it.”

The man in the suit turns to the youth. “Is it true?”

The youth is still holding up his hands. “It wasn’t me.” He says. “I swear. She’s crazy.”

“I saw. I saw.” She is jumping and very upset. Everyone is watching. You don’t even pretend to look at your phone. You just stare. “He put in his hand and took it.”

She keeps saying it over and over again. The man in the suit doesn’t know what to do.

“Give it back.” She yells. “it’s stealing.” The woman is very upset.

The announcement speaker squawks. “Train approaching in three minutes.”

“You crazy bitch. Stop that. You can’t just go around accusing people of stealing.” The youth is still laughing when he speaks.

She reaches for him and tries to put her hand in the large front pocket of his sweater.

The other youths are laughing and screaming. One grabs one of her lanyards and pulls her. She stumbles.

You step closer, but no one else moves. You re-evaluate. Adapt your behaviour.

She gets back up. You watch the man in the grey suit. He is backing away. “I don’t want any trouble. I am just looking for my wallet.”

“I don’t have your fucking wallet. Ask your bitch here. She probably took it and now she is trying to blame me.”

The woman in the orange dress is crying. Her knee is hurt. She shakes her head. “I saw you.”

The crowd moves further and further back. You glance at the board. Your train is coming. You don’t want to be here.

“You are lying.” The youth says.

Her chin wobbles. “I don’t lie.” She screams and pushes him.

He laughs and pushes her back. The woman tilts backwards. Her trajectory is not favourable. Her arms fly wide and make circles. She is on the edge of the platform. You watch, you take a step forward and extend your arm. You are too far. No one goes closer.

She tries to come back. Her arms flail. The youth’s eyes are as wide as hers. The gust of wind and she tries to reach.  Lights in the tunnel. The vibrations of the train. The swoosh of air as it rushes past. The train is going too fast. You hear the heavy thud. You try to look away but your eyes stay on the orange dress. It is not bright anymore. The dress turns dark. The youth runs away. Everyone watches, no one moves. A lady screams.

The train screeches and tries to stop, but it can’t stop here. It is not your train. A whistle blows and you see the security man, running, coming closer. Too late. He is too late. The train stops, but nothing can be done. People slip away one by one. The security man is trying to stop them. He needs statements. Witnesses.

You stand near the wall where you are supposed to wait. You look at the board again. Your train is not coming. You initiate the tracker. They will be coming for you. You are confused. You watch the police ask questions. The man in the grey suit. The other people. You do not understand. No one tells them what happened. The youths are gone. The youth in the black sweater was not appropriate, but not helping is also not appropriate. You want to help, but no one tells the police what happened.

You hear loud voices at the top of the escalator. You close your eyes. You hope it is not the youth returning. Feet banging on the metal steps and running.

A warm hand touches your arm, but you squeeze your eyes shut. You don’t want to be pushed.

“Aiden, you can open your eyes. You are safe.”

You open your eyes slowly.

“Doctor Sloane, thank goodness. How are you today?”

“Hello Aiden. I am fine. How are you?”

“Doctor Sloane, I have had the most troublesome day. I have many questions.”

“I am sure you do. Just let me talk to the police officer.”

You follow Doctor Sloane, but you don’t want to get closer. They are already talking.

“…unwilling to co-operate.” You catch the police officer’s last words.

“He is confused. He hasn’t been programmed for a situation like this.” Doctor Sloane speaks quietly, but he won’t argue with her. No one does.

“What do you mean programmed?”

She turns to you. “Aiden, please introduce yourself.”

 You move closer, “Good day, I am Aiden, I am an artificial intelligence aide.”

“Why didn’t he say that when I asked?”

“He is programmed to respond to certain voice commands. His vocabulary and emotional responses are still developing. This was his first outing.”

“Well did he see what happened?”

Doctor Sloane looks at you, you calculate the risk and nod.

She turns back to the officer, “He recorded it.”

The man in the grey suit looks relieved. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a white handkerchief and holds it out to you. “You need this.”

You frown and look at your hands. You are covered in a fine red splatter. You take the handkerchief. He wants to help. You are confused. You wipe your hands. It is too late.

And here is the 12th prompt:

 by Mia Botha

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If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.