New Life – Submit Your Third Short Story Today


It is time to submit your third short story for the 12 Short Story Challenge. Congratulations to everyone who made the deadline.

I will accept and approve posts for NEW LIFE (Word count: 1000 words) from 12 April 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time), until 13 April, 8:00 (Johannesburg time). Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world.

If you missed the previous deadlines please keep writing. We are almost done creating a platform where you will be able to post the stories for the deadlines you missed, but don’t use this as an excuse. This is about getting things done.

New request:

  1. Please include THE PROMPT, the title, genre and word count on the first line.
  2. Please follow the posting procedure below.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s post.
  2. Post your story as a status update on the Facebook group, 12 Short Stories In 12 Months, on 12 April 2017. (If Facebook blocks the group, because we are all posting on the same day and it thinks we are a bunch of spambots, please be patient. It’ll take a day or so to get it back up. Once it is, I’ll post Plan B. Thank you for all the suggestions of alternatives, but I would like to keep it as simple as possible.)
  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 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. Less is always more in writing and we don’t want Facebook to think we are up to no good and block us.
  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 story:

Vodka by Mia Botha              Prompt: New Life                   Word count: 1000 words

The blade slides along his chin. Slicing off his beard, his country and the last of his heritage. The dark stubble floats in thornish whirls as he rinses it in the sink. Slice, rinse, repeat. The irony doesn’t escape him. The pattern consistent with his life these last few months. Slice a little off the top, launder it through their network and do the same thing the next week and every week after that.

He tenses when a siren wails nearby, but relaxes as it passes and fades away. A soft knock echoes through the room. He smiles and grabs the frayed towel to dry his face.

In the peephole he sees her, glancing up and down the passage. Always vigilant. Always staying safe. He opens the door and pulls her into the room, into his arms.

“Are you okay?” He traces the lines of her body. Looking for injuries, damage, anything that could hurt her. Hurt their chances.

“Fine. Yes, I’m okay.” She takes his hands away. “I am fine.” She begins her assessment of the room. Old habits never die. She takes in  the space, he watches her. Fascinated as always.

She brushes past the bed, running her hands under the pillows, the mattress, behind the bedside table, under the lamp, before turning to give the curtains a final tug, blinking out the last spires of the church, stripping the room of its last shred of identity. If you didn’t look too closely it could be a hotel room in any city. No trace of St Petersburg, of Russia remains. He wishes it was as easy to close the curtains over his own life. She turns back to him at last. Satisfied the room is clear.   

“You look different.” She touches his cheek.

“New life. New me.” He puts his hand over hers, surprised by the smooth skin. He squeezes her fingers.

“Did you get it?” He wishes he didn’t have to ask, but everything depends on this. On her.

She takes her hand away and slips it into her pocket, grins and holds up two passports, proudly proclaiming The United States of America.

“Spasibo, lyubov’ moya,” he says and leans in to kiss her.

“English only,” she squirms out of his reach, wagging her finger with a smile.

“Thank you, my love.” He says again, his tongue working hard to wrap around the foreign words.

“And you weren’t followed?” He is eager for this to be over.

“I’m not an amateur, Vasili.” She flops onto the bed. The old springs squeal in protest.

“Victor.” He watches her uncurl on the bed and kick off her shoes. 

“I wasn’t followed, Victor.” She rolls her eyes.

“Good.” He can’t help but smile, even if it feels wrong. It’s not over yet, but they’re so close. Months and months of planning. They were both a little off, his eyes flit around the room taking note of the things she missed.  The usual checks she always did. Smoke detector. Bathroom vent. Window frames. It was an odd thought, that they wouldn’t have to live like this forever. It was heady. He felt giddy.

“The money?” Her smile disappears. They never joke about money. She jumps up and starts pacing.

“Packed and ready.” He nods his head at the old, small kit bag in the corner.  “We’ll get the rest as soon as we’re in Washington.”   

“The evidence?” She sounded panicked, it must be the thought that they were so close.

“Safe. Here.” He holds up the small roll of microfilm between his forefinger and his thumb. They both look at it before he puts it back in his pocket.  

“Only four hours, then it’s over.” She rests her head on his chest.

“And then we’ll be out of this shit hole.”

“Don’t call Mother Russia a shit hole.” She glares at him.

“Mother Russia has bitten off more than she can chew.”

She stiffens and shakes her head. He recalibrates, realigns his thinking. Betraying one’s country brought up unexpected emotions.  

“No, Mother Russia is chewing exactly the same thing. We’ve just exchanged one tyranny for another. Century after century.” She nods, a familiar conversation and relaxes again.

“What will you miss the most?” Her voice catches, emotions well up.

“The weather?” He says coaxing a smile from her.

“No really, what?”

He tries to think of one thing he will miss, but there is nothing, no one, left.

“Perhaps I will miss the vodka.”

“There is vodka in America, Victor.” She turns away, folding her arms and stares at the fine textures in the wallpaper. “How did you do it? What is on the film? You never told me.” She fires off the questions. Rat-ta-tat.

“Does it matter?” He hedges. He can’t go there yet. “You’ve never asked before.”

“I’ve risked my life to be here. I am leaving everything. Is it too much to ask?”

He sighs. “It’s the co-ordinates for the nuclear stockpiles.”

The magnitude of the situation dawns on her. Defecting isn’t cheap.

 “What did you do to get it?”

“A lot.”

“Gladys?”

“Jealous?”

“Stop it Vasili. I’m serious.”

“Yes, Gladys helped me. Risked her life. Her mother is sick. She needed the money.” He frowned.

She glances at the ceiling and nods, he follows her line of sight to the smoke detector. Slowly it dawns on him what she has done. It was as if a tape clicked and stopped recording.

“I am not sorry.” She says as the door splinters and cracks and the police pour into the room. A flood gate broken.

She melts away, into the wall. Avoids his eyes. He sees her talking to an officer.

They drag him into the street and push him onto his knees. Behind him The Church of Our Savior On Spilled Blood towered over St Petersburg. He keeps his eyes on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated. She slips past them, along the canal, kit bag in her arms. Darkness engulfs him.

THE END

Here is our next prompt:

P.S. Please join the group on Facebook if you want to submit your story every month: 12 Short Stories In 12 Months.

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

This article has 7 comments

  1. annalie

    As always – the TWIST! I love your writing, concise, succinct, all those exact things 😉
    Just one little proofreading-mistake: “If you didn’t look to closely” should be TOO.

  2. Irene Cornwell

    Do I comment on your story here? If so, I read with mounting interest and loved the line about the Russian people trading one tyranny for another. I read just that line from a “diary” of a Canadian who somehow happened to fight with the White Russians in the early 1900’s. I felt genuine sadness for the man at the end . So the emotional intent was successful!

    • Mia

      Thank you, Irene. I’d love to read that diary. I appreciate your comments.

  3. Chrisna

    A very tense, fast-paced story; very suspenseful, loved it. Great setting. Nice touch adding the Russian dialogue.

  4. Elspeth Flatau

    Great story Mia. As always following your guidelines! Thank you.

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