Wednesday, December 8, 2021

WEP - Beautiful Husk & Open Markets

 I haven't participated in WEP in forever, and felt like I needed a writing exercise since I've been working on nonfiction. Check out the WEP blog to read other entries or submit your own.



Beautiful Husk

Tagline: Some must bear witness, an echo only of the horrors they see.

He bends over the water as he has for what seems like forever, staring into his own eyes. From my outsider's view, he is quite beautiful. His hair falls in gentle waves to his shoulders, reflecting the sun with a golden sheen that almost burns the eyes. His jawline is sculpted and strong, standing out severely the more weight he loses. He has not eaten, nor bent to take a sip of the water which so entrances him. 

The closer I get, the more I see that he's not so beautiful after all. His skin is dry and flaking from his face and forearms, the only exposed areas visible to me. It drifts like snow to land upon the water, causing only the slightest ripple before dissolving and disappearing.

His lips, once so soft and full, have withered to a thin line of dull, wrinkled flesh. Once I would have kissed him. Now I wouldn't dare for fear his lips might crumble.

At first, he spoke, if only to his reflection, mumbling "You're beautiful."

I whispered back, "You're beautiful."

But now he stays silent, engrossed, immoveable. Cursed as I am to only repeat the words of others, I'm doomed to an equal silence, a watchful statue who cannot intervene.

This morning, I willed the morning dew to slide just right along his jaw to those wizened lips. It traced his cheekbone to the hungering hollow of his cheek...

     ...ran to the corner of his mouth...

                  ...traced the line between lip and chin...

                              ...slipped through the cleft...

                                        ...and splashed from the point of his chin to the water.

He has grown weak, his forearms shrinking from muscled to gaunt, his back bowing, spine pressing against the dirty white of his shirt. Still he stares, wasting away. His stomach stopped rumbling days ago.

As his head grows heavier, his neck slack, the reflection he loves so dearly gets closer and closer, drawing him in, an inch away from a kiss. Now a centimeter. Now...

In desperation, I step lightly onto the water and skate toward him. The fish and water bugs watch my approach, bubbles rising from gills and mouths. They have gathered beneath the surface, looking up at this strange, but handsome, man. They do not understand.

I do not understand.

I draw nearer and see that his crystal blue eyes are bloodshot, red pulsating through the white. The corners are crusted, as are the edges of his lips. Up close, the sun setting, his golden hair now looks drab and filthy. It hangs limply, frizzy strands punctuating his face. Blood encrusts his nose. 

Diving, I drift beneath his reflection. Looking up at him through the water, I see what he must see. The liquid hides the crust and flaking skin, the damaged hair, the bloodshot eyes. From here, he's as beautiful as when I first saw him...when he first saw himself. It smooths him, blurs the hard edges.

I fear shattering his reflection. If there's a spell, I may be drawn in. Still, I must do something. 

Kicking my feet, I rise.

He gets closer. The water grows warmer.

I break the surface in time to hear his final,

                                                             rattling 

                                                                  breath.

I can only echo the sound, tears running down my face to mingle with the water.

Lost within himself, Narcissus is no more.


554 words, NCCO (I'm treating this like a spontaneous prompt, so it's unedited)


Now for markets accepting submissions in the next month. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Starry Eyed Press is seeking science fiction for their anthology One-Way Ticket to Epsilon Eridani. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline Spring 2022 (including this here since it will close once full).

Knight Writing Press is seeking your trunk stories that you think didn't get a fair shake for the anthology Particular Passages 2. Up to 7000 words. Pays in a royalty split. Deadline is January 1. (Side note: I know the owner of this press and he's an honest guy.)

Off Topic Publishing is seeking stories and poems for the anthology Wayward & Upward. Stories must be inspired by a track from the electrosymphonic album by the same name as the anthology, by Spinoza Gambit. 1500 to 3000 words. Payment is $100 CAD for stories, $50 CAD for poems. Deadline January 30.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking romances involving time travel for their anthology Everlast. 5000 to 20,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline January 31, 2022. (Note that they're still open for sexy fairy tales for Rogue Tales until December 31). 

Cloaked Press is seeking science fiction stories for Spring Into SciFi. 3500 to 9000 words. Pays $15. Deadline February 5.

Word Balloon Books is seeking short stories in the following themes/genres: Rockets & Robots/Science Fiction Adventure, Beware the Bugs/Fantasy or Science Fiction, Paradoxical Pets/Fantasy or Science Fiction. Under 3000 words preferred. Pays $.01/word advanced against royalties. Deadline February 11.

Qwerty is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and more. Current theme is Folklore & Fairy Tales. Up to 5000 words. Pays $10 CAD. Deadline February 15.

Have you visited the other WEPers? Have you tried participating? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to add?

May you find your Muse.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Shannon - a complete change for Narcissus - interesting rendition on his demise .. from a statue who skates across water's surface tension and perhaps brings Narcissus to his end. That was a fascinating read - thank you ... cheers Hilary

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  2. Love this - lots of layers. We don't always see ourselves the way others do. Love seeing this from Echo's pov!

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  3. Poor Narcissus, even his mirror (the reflection in water) lied. :) Ingenious! Thanks for sharing the links. But a special thanks for participating this very busy month!

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  4. What a sad, sad story. A very original take on the theme.

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  5. This is brilliant. Nope, I'm not British but that was the word that came to mind. so well written. Well done. As far as mine is concerned, it is an excerpt from the soon to be released fantasy novel, The emperor of the Moon and Stars, Book 3 in the chronicles of Gil-Lael. It's always hard to know how much to include in an excerpt.
    Nancy

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    1. I think you included just the right amount. It left us hanging in a good way.

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  6. Welcome back Shannon. I'm glad we offered you a platform to write to a prompt this month. A good time seeing there's so much busyness and our entries are way down.
    I LOVE your take on the prompt. Very imaginative which I'd expect from you. Many layers to sift through. Poignant. Sad. Touching. Poor Narcissus. He was hoodwinked by his beauty.

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    1. I hope the entries pick back up. There were such great pieces this time around!

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  7. This is horrifyingly beautiful. Thank you.

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  8. I enjoyed your retelling from Echo's point of view. It was very poignant.
    Thanks for the tips about anthologies seeking stories. :-)

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  9. A striking narrative of Narcissus' demise, from Echo's perspective. Her sadness is palpable.

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  10. Your narrative was simply mesmerizing! But before commenting here, I decided to go, Google Echo, and that story helped me get a better understanding of this narrative. :) I am so in awe of your writing! <3

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    1. I'm glad you were able to find out more about Echo. I wanted to do something slightly different.

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