Mastermind Short Story

Mastermind – Submit Your Eighth Short Story Today

I can’t believe that we have already written eight short stories. Congratulations to everyone who made it.

Submission process: 

I will accept and approve posts for Mastermind (Word count: 1000 words) from 6 September 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time), until 7 September 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 still join? 

If you still want to join 12 Short Stories you can. The next prompt will be your first and you will keep going until you reach 12 stories in 2018. The system allocates one point for every story you submit per month. We will start with a new series of posts in January 2018.

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.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s story below.
  2. Post your story on
  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:

Mastermind by Mia Botha

Mastermind by Mia Botha

Prompt: Mastermind | Word count: 1000 words | Genre: Thriller

The blonde bobs hover near their Range Rovers, clutching their take-away cappuccinos. They have exchanged their pastel twinsets for luminescent active wear, complete with neon sneakers and matching puffer jackets. 

The old school building looms over everything, stately and disapproving all at once, waiting for the school day to begin. We’re scattered about the playground, our uniforms making us alike, but no uniform can make us the same on the inside. I have never been like them and I never will be. Not with a mother like mine.

I sit near the swing set. I am pretending to watch the smaller girls play, but I keep an eye on the group near the bench. They’re as subtle as their mothers when it comes to casual gawking, comical whispers behind cupped hands intended for everyone’s ears. Mine especially.

It’s Alice’s first day back. She hasn’t been to school since her mother died. I’ve been here every day. Putting up a good show, innocent until proven guilty and all that, the lawyers said.

Movement catches my eye. The blonde bobs have changed their formation, all pretence of conversation halted. They watch through the palisades.

The girls are moving towards me. I don’t change my position. I keep my eyes down and they crowd around me. Alice is crying, she tries to turn back, but they pull her along. One of them pats her on the back in an absentminded manner, more intent on me than on her.

“You shouldn’t be here.”  They say.

I used to think that I was nothing like my mother, but through the years I've gotten a sense of her. It was harder when I was little, younger, but as I grew I learnt a few things. First about her, then from her and now I have learnt who I am. She has power, but so do I.  I fiddle with my hem and refuse to look at them.

“Why don’t you go away?” They say.

I watched my mother when I was little, weaving her stories, her spells, telling her lies. Lies that were so intricate, so woven into the fabric of our everyday lives it has taken me years to unravel them. To unravel her, but at last I understand.

“Go away. We don’t want you here. Alice doesn’t want you here.” They say and Alice sobs to confirm their statement.

I look up for the first time and let the tears well in my eyes. I make my voice small, “But she didn’t do anything.” The tears spill and I let them. I don’t try to wipe my cheeks. Let them see that I am suffering too.

“She killed my mother.” Alice cries, her words heavy.

“She didn’t. She isn’t guilty. They said she isn’t guilty. She was on trial and she is free.” I stamp my foot. Childlike. Innocent.

“They were wrong. She tricked them. She hated my mother. She was jealous of my mother and she killed her.” Alice shrieks, her voice cracks. She doesn’t look pretty when she cries. She hasn’t practiced.

I cover my face and my shoulders shake. The bell rings and the smaller girls run off. We are the only group left on the playground. The blonde bobs cling to the palisade, desperate to hear our conversation. Their words float towards us: Inevitable. Good. Cathartic.

“Your mother is a killer.” They say again and I cover my ears. They have no idea. I once thought my mother was a genius, but it turned out she wasn’t. Her plans were so infantile. I laughed when I figured out what she was trying to do. My mother thinks it was all her idea. Her genius.

 “We were friends once, Alice.” I whisper.

“That was before your mother turned psycho.” They say.

“She didn’t do it. Don’t say that about her.” I say with conviction. Maybe she started it, but she doesn’t know she was still alive. She doesn’t know she was breathing. She doesn’t know I had to finish it and I ‘m not going to tell her.

“You’re just as crazy as she is, if you think that.” They smirk.

I turn to Alice. “Can we just talk? Like we used to. You are my best friend.”

Alice shakes her head, horrified at the idea.

“How can you even think she did it? She loved you. They were friends.” I wave my hand at the blonde bobs still clinging to fence. “They were all friends.”

They laugh. “She was never one of them and you’ll never be one of us. Come on, Alice. Let’s go to class. Sister Lawrence is coming.”

I see Sister Lawrence waddling down the path, her habit flapping around her short, round little legs. “What are you girls doing here? The bell rang ages ago.” She gasps, but they have already disappeared.

The girls have gone to their classes. The blonde bobs have sped off in their shiny cars. No one wants to be caught picking on a little girl. No wants to be called a bully. Bullies are bad.  I stay where I am and let the tears flow. Sister Lawrence folds me into her ample bosom, heaving from the exertion my rescue has caused. 

“Now, now. Let’s take some deep breaths.” I am not sure if she talking to herself or to me, but I breathe. I let her hold me.

“Do you want to call your mom?”

I nod and wipe my cheeks. “Please, Sister.”

She puts her arm around me and leads me to the office. “I am sorry, Katie. They’re confused. I hope you can forgive them. It is terrible that your family has been dragged into this. Your mom is such a lovely lady and you are just like her.”

I rest my head my head on her shoulder. It is good to have people on our side, but I don’t want her to see my smile, because I am not like my mother. Oh no, I am much worse.

And here is the ninth prompt:

Prompt 9 - Short Cuts

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.