The following short story was a potential I wrote for a recent competition, that I didn’t end up entering for reasons I think are obvious. I’ve decided to publish it anyway. Maybe this can be a learning experience for both of us, and an opportunity for me to get more comfortable sharing my work with strangers. So read on! If you enjoy it, I’m glad, and if you don’t, feel free to give some critiques. I’ll be doing that myself at the end of this piece because I’m not happy with it. Any feedback will be appreciated.
Rationality would suggest that what just happened wasn’t real, that there was no threat to me or the building. Rationality, I decide, sprinting out of the mayor’s office, can go to hell.
Evan is in the hall, probably wondering why I was taking so long. Not out-of-character for my impatient little brother, but for once I wish he’d stayed where I left him.
I grabb Evan by the arm, pulling him to his feet. He drops his book so I grab it, knowing I’ll never hear the end of it if it goes up with flames with the rest of city hall. The curtains had been well ablaze by the time I saw what had happened, and I hadn’t stuck around to put out the fire, I’d just left.
Evan yelps, jerking his arm back. “What are you doing?”
“Running!” I put action to words and make for the outdoors, Evan close behind, if only to yell at me for taking his book.
The door crashes open behind us and a flaming bull with horns the length of my entire body charges at us.
I don’t bother saying ‘that’—witty banter only works in the movies, or situations where you’re not about to be charged by an eldritch abomination.
Evan is panting but keeping up as I run down the street trying to stay ahead of the fire-bull, looking everywhere for an avenue of escape.
“What was that?”
He almost trips over his own feet, his voice holding a shrill note of dismay, but no surprise. “What did you do, Fi?”
“Maybe we can talk about this later?”
The bull gets closer, a sweep of his horns taking out a nearby street sign and nearly Evan.
I shove him out of the way just in time. His usually tan face turns the colour of mayonnaise when he sees the wreckage of the stop sign.
“I guess the bull can’t read.”
“You think that’s funny?!”
Mr Mayor is gearing up for another charge, so I drag Evan up the trellis of a nearby restaurant to get out of the line of (heh) fire.
The bull is distracted for the moment. Evan pauses for one moment to look at the mayhem in our wake before turning to harangue me. “I can’t believe you transmuted the mayor! Of all the stupid, boneheaded—”
“It wasn’t me!”
“Oh, he just happened to turn into a flaming bull when you turned up?”
“I didn’t mean to! He was just being so bull-headed—”
In the street below the mayor smashes over a garbage bin, his horns caught for a moment before it melts away in a cloud of greasy smoke.
“I don’t know how. Unless,” I chew on my lip. “Stand back, I’m about to do something incredibly stupid.”
“Like I’d notice the difference.”
I jump down before I have to respond; no time for sibling rivalry, I have a city to save. Time to take the bull by the horns.
I hate it. Absolutely hate it. It could be interesting, but it’s not. The ending is vague and unsatisfying, the parting line is cheesy, and (worst of all) it doesn’t mean anything. Evan and Fi don’t have any hints at motivation, there’s no reason for them to be in city hall, the world is left largely vague and if anyone was interested in reading further, it’d be for answers I don’t have. It almost reads as a fragment of a novel, rather than a short story. There’s rising tension, sure, but nothing close to a conclusion—probably because the narrative arc itself is so weak.
Overall—not good. With some heavy revisions and a lot of added structure, it could be worth reading. If you’re still reading this, let me know if you agree or disagree with my critiques, and why. I’d love to hear from you.