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Short Story Contest > [2016, Aug] The Debt

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message 1: by Maira (new)

Maira | 5852 comments Mod
The north wind blew from across half a continent, gathering the mists in its arms, baring the mountains of their wispy, grey blanket, and almost gently draping the valley in thick, rolling clouds of fog. The sprawling, rickety old town slept as winter nestled into its deepest nooks and crannies. The cobblestones were slick with mist and grime, and like diseased capillaries the streets and alleys branched outwards, dark and sporadic. The residents were sequestered in their warm houses, windows shuttered against the exploring fingers of freezing cold. They snuggled deeper into their cots, pulling the blankets closer while fires burned merrily in their grates, dispelling the last vestiges of icy winter. Outside one of those houses, if one looked below their window that opened above a narrow, dark alley, one would make out two indistinct shapes huddled together for warmth, with their backs against a mounting heap of garbage.

The two orphan boys were five and eight years old. Their breaths misted in front of their dirty faces, and snot froze on their upper-lips. Clad in tatters and rags, they shivered violently and their chests wheezed with every lungful of air they breathed. Like two mournful flutes, playing in unison, courting death. For on these streets, death sometimes came without much pageantry, but to a melancholy tune of weakened lungs. The older of the two recognized the sound, even if the younger thought their worst ordeal was the cold itself.

“I’ve never been this cold, Tim”, said the younger one, through clattering teeth.

“Me neither, Kip. But it’s better than being chased by Old Man Blindy”, said the the older one, and both managed weak snickers.

“Maybe Old Man Blindy would die this winter, and we could keep Earless?” Kip, the younger of kids asked Tim expectantly.

Always thinking happy thoughts, Kip. I wish it were true but it’s not Old Man Blindy who’ll die tonight, Tim thought with a heavy heart, tears welling up in his eyes as the night slowly leeched warmth and strength from their frail bodies. Old Man Blindy was an old man, of course, and blind too; not that it took much to figure that out. But despite his obvious handicap, the two children feared him more than they feared being caught stealing fruits from Trevor, the fat vendor. Trevor was at least honest in his anger and would give them bloodied noses or swollen eyes. But Blindy was evil. He would threaten to eat their beating hearts while they stayed alive to watch it happen, or would threaten to take away their eyes and make himself see again. He would grin toothlessly at them; his blank eyes coated with a milky white film would seek them out, despite having lost the sense of sight. Tim was half-certain Old Man Blindy could actually see, eyes or no eyes.

Tim listened to Kip breathe, his breaths getting shallower at a faster rate than his. He held him closer, a lump forming in his throat and looking up at the night sky, his eyes accusatory at whoever looked down. Tim wondered what they had done to deserve this anonymous funeral next to a rotting mound of garbage. Two unwanted children of the streets, hated and reviled, shunned by honest-folk, they were left to fend for themselves. Perhaps we did something in the past life to deserve this? Perhaps Blindy is right? Old Man Blindy would prattle about past lives coming to haunt people, whenever they were caught feeding Blindy’s dog, Earless. It was actually why they would rouse the crazy old man’s ire in the first place. He didn’t like it when they fed Earless. It was as if he thought they would steal the happy little dog from him. By all rights, the dog belonged to them! They had been the ones who had found it bleeding from a gash where its ear had once been. They had been the ones who stole bread to feed him, while he whined pitifully. They were trying to help him live, even though the dog was barely conscious, and bled profusely.

Tim had given up in his heart but Kip insisted they would definitely save it. That’s when they heard a gruff voice speak.

“Unto you, as you do unto them.” They recognized the Fardi saying, even if they didn’t recognize the voice immediately. It was the crazy old man, Blindy.

They scuttled farther back into the corner, away from the looming figure of the old beggar, clothed in long dirty strips of linen, after the Fardian fashion of travelling priests. Everyone believed Fardi followers to be lunatics, and some rumours went as far as to claim they were cannibals.

“Get away from the dog if you don’t want me to take away your hands”, He smiled toothlessly, eyes white like alabaster.

“We found him! He belongs t- ” Tim quickly wrapped a hand around Kip’s mouth before he cost them their precious hands.

“Take him!” Tim exclaimed in growing trepidation, while Kip struggled to wriggle free from his grip.

The old man stared directly at Tim, smiled one last time, before gingerly scooping up Earless in his arms and disappearing into the mouth of the alley, where it opened into the main street. Kip and Tim didn’t see either the dog or Old Man Blindy for a couple of days, and Kip blamed Tim for the dog’s death. Tim tried to cheer him up with a half-eaten apple that afternoon and a loaf of bread in the evening, which he had stolen from a bakery, but to no avail. Kip remained despondent for two days until that morning, when a healthier and lively Earless bounded toward them from across the town-square.

message 2: by Maira (new)

Maira | 5852 comments Mod
“You’re alive!” exclaimed Kip, visibly overjoyed. “I thought the crazy Fardian priest ate you!”
Tim bent and massaged the jowls of the dog, clearly excited himself.

“Good boy!”

And so it went. Whenever Earless found time to get away from his demented, old master, he would seek them out and play with them. They would feed him, and teach him tricks. Kip even managed to teach him how to steal bread from a woman’s basket while he distracted her. In the small world of the two orphans, it was the closest thing to a family. However, it wasn’t always good times. Sometimes Earless wouldn’t appear for days and the orphans would go look for him near Blindy’s usual haunt. And sometimes Blindy would catch them red-handed feeding his dog and would leave the scampering away in the wake of his blind rage. But all things considered, it had been a good summer.

Now, three months later, the summer was long gone, fading away into memory like a lost friend. All traces of it had been scourged by the winter’s abrasions, until not even the scents of flowers remained to track it by. The winter had been the coldest the young boys had ever endured on these streets. All life foolish enough to stay exposed and weather the cold perished in its struggle. Tim and Kip were no different. Tim waited for the final knell of the bell, as Kip slipped into unconsciousness in his arms, struggling to breathe. He knew the sun still had a few hours to rouse from its slumber, as he looked at the black sky in hopeless dejection. He couldn’t feel his toes and fingers anymore, and the cold slowly crept from his extremities to his core, marching to a unsteady rhythm and advanced like a glacial army poised to claim the throne. He felt the world grow darker by the second, and he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. The deceptive embrace of sleep beckoned him, laden with promise of an end to his suffering; an end to everything.

He slowly began fading away. Eyes almost entirely closed, he couldn’t keep the darkness at bay anymore. The frigid pain in his bones gave way to numbness, and he felt himself diminishing with every weakened beat of his stuttering heart. Lets sleep Kip. There’s no more hunger or fear on the other side. No more pain and threats. No more nothing. He thought deliriously, as the frayed rope of his will snapped inside his soul. He heard a dog bark. Earless is here Kip. He’ll go with us. We’ll be together, always. He saw a light in the distance, and its intensity increased as it grew bigger. His dying mind thought it was the sun, perhaps. But then he realized it was the light from the afterlife. Heaven had spilled its warmth on them. For one delirious moment he thought Old Man Blindy was there too, and he laughed at the absurdity of the thought as darkness consumed him.

The Fardian priest’s white eyes were lit up like heavenly stars, dispelling all darkness in the alley, filling it with a pearly luster as he mumbled incantations under his breath. Earless whimpered in distress next to the unconscious bodies of the two orphans. They only had minutes to live. The old man’s mumbling seemed to reach some sort of crescendo and he raised both his arms and with a sudden, swift motion brought them together in front of him, fingers entwined. The clap reverberated through the alley like a tangible wave of force and the boys began to breathe normally, colour returning to their bodies, which seconds ago had a deathly pallor. The dog’s remaining ear perked up, and it began wagging its tail excitedly.

“There you go dog. Your debt to them is paid,” said Old Man Blindy in a gruff but kind voice.

“Unto you, as you do unto them”, whispered the blind old man as he stepped out into the frigid, dark night.

Unleashed Princess | 4 comments beautifully written ! this has got to be my favourite ! definitely a 10/10 from me !

message 4: by Maira (new)

Maira | 5852 comments Mod
This is an excellent story with a mysterious surrounding. I loved the dark feel of the story that adds to the overall concept of the story. It reminds me of Gara's story in Naruto for some reason. :P


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow. Amazing. Really good. Loved the heartbreak and bleak circumstances of the two kids...

9 out of 10.

message 6: by Sara (new)

Sara Saif | 630 comments 8/10

message 7: by Sadaf (new)

Sadaf | 22 comments Very well rounded though I wonder how the blind old man caught them feeding Earless every time :D


message 8: by Sameea (last edited Aug 01, 2016 04:15PM) (new)

Sameea | 292 comments Excellent storytelling! I shivered whilst reading the description of winter at the beggining. I loved the use of imagery:

'the cold slowly crept from his extremities to his core, marching to a unsteady rhythm and advanced like a glacial army poised to claim the throne'


message 9: by Tribal (new)

Tribal Demagogue | 77 comments I'll reserve my judgement on this story for a later time.

message 10: by Thall (new)

Thall (recantrecantrecant) | 560 comments Hard to judge this one. One the one hand, storytelling is excellent. But on the other, the fantasy element is not even 10% of the story. To judge purely on the merit of the story while ignoring the genre, I'll give it 9/10. But if genre is to be given its due importance, then it's a 8/10.

message 11: by Nadeem (new)

Nadeem Muhammad | 7 comments great style 9.5/10

message 12: by Abdullah (new)

Abdullah Khalid | 807 comments 8/10

message 13: by Rao (last edited Aug 07, 2016 11:17PM) (new)

Rao Javed | 713 comments 7\10

Nice but the story is not good.

message 14: by Amna (new)

Amna  (devilishpisho) | 3288 comments 8/10

message 15: by Nigham (new)

Nigham | 4018 comments "Like two mournful flutes, playing in unison, courting death. "


message 16: by Uzair (new)

Uzair | 1135 comments 8.5/10

message 17: by Faheem (new)

Faheem  (faheeem) | 1596 comments Mod

message 18: by Tribal (new)

Tribal Demagogue | 77 comments Thank you so much everyone! I'm humbled by your appreciation and ratings! I'm glad my story could touch your heart in one way or the other. You're the best readers one could hope for! xxxxx

Special thanks to:
Maira,Asad, Unleashed Princess, Humera, Sadaf, Sameea, Nigham, Nadeem Muhammad

To those of you who didn't like my story, I apologize for taking your time. I hope to improve in the future. :)

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