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The Endless Struggle · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Postman
Usually, when the church bells strike eleven, the postman’s round is over at last, and it’s time for him to enjoy a much deserved pause at the pub that sits on the main square between church and town hall, before getting back to his office.

But not today. Today, he has a last parcel to deliver. And that’s not going to be an easy task, because that parcel is addressed to the old coot who lives alone in a chalet high above the village. A chalet poised on the brink of the precipice, a lofty fortress whose only access is a small and precipitous path which slithers along the mountainside, until it crests a high pass and falls away on the other side.

No need to say, it’s asinine to think one could use the postal van to climb up there: the path is much too narrow and steep and rocky. The only possible way is to summon one’s courage and walk. A two hour hike at least, not taking into account the fact that it snowed last night, which will undoubtedly make the trail slippery and almost invisible at places.

But such are the hardships of the postal service, and its rules and regulations, however dour, are not meant to be tampered with.

The postman pulls his van over where the path leaves the main road, removes the hefty parcel from the trunk and shoves it into his threadbare burlap bag. He looks up and along the path, where drifts of snow occasionally blotch the dull garb of the rocks, until his eyes pinpoint the minute shape of the house, crowned by a ghostly cloud of smoke. He sighs, checks his shoes and sets forth.

The first half-hour is easy, as the trail gently slopes amid the aspens whose fallen leaves, yellow and brittle with Autumn’s first icy breath, blanket the ground. There is hardly any sound, save for the one-off chirp of a bird or the occasional scurrying of a squirrel, caught off-guard in its morning errand.

But as soon as the path exits the spinney, the difficulty ramps up. No more are the feet greeted by the soft touch of decaying organic matter, but by the rough bite of bare rock, scree after scree. The slope increases, and each step now calls for all the experience of a seasoned hiker to ensure a firm purchase and avoid the rogue cobbles ready to roll under the instep, with unpredictable consequences.

The foot might be unerring, the effort is unchanged. At noon, the postman marks a brief pause, swilling down what water is left in his flask while contemplating the village below, whose houses seem so small they could be inhabited by ants, before resuming his ascent.

Half an hour later, he braces up for the most perilous stretch, as the path tapers off to a mere track veering vertiginously between two plumb faces. Soon, fortunately, the difficulty is over. After a last hairpin, he surmounts the major ledge, entering a wide expanse of flat land that stands as if suspended in the middle of the cliff. The path widens again, and runs straight to his destination, now at hand.

The postman finally arrives at the threshold. A strong, dark wooden door bars the entrance. Above it, on a transom, a mysterious word “XAIPE!” is carved. Undaunted, the postman fishes the parcel from its bag and knocks.

“Ah!” a voice says inside. The door hinges open, revealing an old man, with a wrinkled face and a long, white beard. He extends a gnarled, enormous hand.

“Mister… Hades Pluto?” the postman hesitates. “Is that your name?”

“Of course!” the elder replies, giggling. “I was expecting you. Please come in and have a seat.”

“With pleasure!” the postman replies. He steps in and walks to a wooden table, on which an ancient, exquisite hourglass stands. He puts the parcel on the table, then grabs a stool and sits.

“Here is a parcel—”

“I know,” the elder cuts in, sitting in turn. “I know. Have you guessed what is inside?”

“Sir, the regulations prohibit—” replies the postman as the other rips the parcel off, freeing a boulder which tumbles on the table.

The postman eyes widen. “I… I don’t understand…”

The elder chortles. “Maybe one day, maybe one day…” he booms, as he turns the hourglass round and darkness suddenly fells over.

Usually, the postman’s round is over at eleven. But not today. Today, he has a last parcel to deliver.
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#1 ·
Postal worker Sisyphus? Clever.
#2 · 1
· · >>Astrarian
Cute, though it might have been a bit on the nose calling him "Hades Pluto". Might have been better to be a bit more subtle with that, or reveal him to be Hades/Pluto a bit later than you did.
#3 · 2
· · >>Astrarian
This is my slate topper for the first round.

This was a clever idea combined with charming execution that gave me a real sense of the author's style. The elongated, almost out-of-breath description combined with the cheeky narration emphasizes the sense of tediousness associated with The Postman's journey. I am not sure if this it by coincidence or design that the author's writing style managed align with the story he/she was telling, but nonetheless, it greatly heightens the piece as a whole.

There are some faults in the prose, however, generally with word selection. Usage of very ugly syllable pill-ups such as "vertiginously" and an (assumed) unintentional tendency towards alliterative phrasing detract from what I would otherwise consider to be a very solid work. Additionally, the extended style does not work well for the first sentence. I also agree with TD in that the Hades Pluto choice, while useful for signposting what is going on, comes across as a bit too ham-fisted, even for a narrative that is admittedly a bit goofy.

I tried to look up "XAIPE" which I took to either mean "ESCAPE" or be a rendering of "chi alpha iota rho epsilon", which upon googling, took my to a bunch of fraternity pages and a book by E.E. Cummings. Please tell me what this means.
#4 · 1
According to French Wiktionary, it is Ancient Greek for "Hail," like the greeting. It looks like it can be used both for hello and goodbye.
#5 ·
Interesting premis, good execution, a solid 8/10
#6 ·
“The Postman Always Rings. Always…”

I agree with the H. P. criticism. Aside from that, I quite like this work.

I’ve got to make a reference here to the Church of Sisyphus. Take big strides!
#7 ·
I appreciate the point that >>Cassius and >>TitaniumDragon make regarding Hades Pluto possibly being too obvious for learned types, but I personally needed the smack in order to realise that the story had a basis in mythology.
#8 · 4
Doesn't this kinda undercut the sisyphean myth, though? Like, the whole point is that he knows what he's doing is pointless. This felt... even more pointless than that, because he doesn't even seem to remember it.

That being said, fairly solid story, solid twist, pretty well written, even if your prose looks a bit like a thesaurus bled all over it.

I do think 'Hades Pluto' might be a bit much, but perhaps just one would have been fine - just so it was a touch less emphatic.
#9 · 1
I don't have much to complain about here. The writing is pleasant, it tells a complete story, and the theme fits the prompt well. I recognized the Sisyphus without that Greek thing, but I'm not sure the Greek thing would've helped that much for me anyway if I didn't.

I think there's nothing structurally or mechanically wrong with the story, but maybe I'm just put off a bit by the old man. Just seems a bit too vague, condescending maybe, the way he laughs about what's happening. I don't really get it.

Again, I don't really have much to complain about. The story seems fine and actually pretty good. However, personally it felt a bit off to me.
#10 ·
Best of the loop stories, definitely. I dunno, I just favor a clean repeat or a clean lead between actions.

Solid story and fits the format super well. This is just a plain good minific.

While there's nothing egregiously wrong, I think the prose could use a solid pass to clean it up and really make it shine. There are just a lot of sentences that could do with a bit of polish (though that may be my own personal style intruding).

I think stepping Hades Pluto back to one of the names would probably be best, as it still evokes the strangeness and mythology without being quite so weird.
#11 · 1
I haven't read this yet, but congrats. :pinkiehappy: You should be proud of yourself and not try to wave away this accomplishment. You're a good writer and you're consistently improving.

Bravo! :twilightclap: