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The Long Road Home · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The River Lady
On the day that the boy met the Lady for the first time, he had been having a very unpleasant morning. The schoolmarm had been very cross with him for fighting, even though he only started it because some of the mean boys were throwing stones at the younger children. But she didn’t listen, and she sent him with the other boys to the headmaster, who sent them all home early with notes they were supposed to have their parents sign.

As he walked home, the boy held his hands in his pockets and kicked up the soot on the street, making little black clouds that followed him down the street. Because he didn’t want to go home straight away, he went to the riverbank and threw stones into the water, pretending that he was really throwing them at the boys who had gotten him in trouble.

When his arms were tired he threw one last rock, but just as it skipped across the surface of the river, he thought he saw a sparkling, blue light in the water, close to where he was standing.

He knew it was not the sky’s reflection, because it was very cloudy that day. And since he had been reading a book about pirates and islands with treasure buried on them, he thought perhaps it was a sapphire or some other jewel.

The boy leaned close to the water, and when he held his head a certain way, he saw the light again. But it was only for a moment—the water was muddy and murky, so the boy leaned further. Just when he thought he could see the shape of the gem, one of his shoes slipped on the smooth, wet riverstones and he fell into the dark, foul-smelling water.

The water was deep, and the boy hadn’t yet learned to swim. He kicked and paddled and tried to yell for help, but there was water in his mouth, and mud in his eyes, and it was in his nose, too.

Just when his head sunk below the surface, his left hand brushed against something warm, and then he felt like he was


Suddenly there was solid ground beneath his feet. He stood upright in knee-deep water, sputtering and spitting.

When he got the mud out of his eyes, he looked around and realized that the water he stood in was not the brackish, soot-filled water from the river. This water was clear like crystal and sparkling, except in the places where the mud from his clothes leaked into it.

When he looked around, he saw a very different riverbank, with trees and grass and sun. The boy had never been to the woods before, and now he heard birds, and insects, and wind running through leaves.

“Hello?” asked the boy, after a while. “Is anyone there?”

The only response was the rustle of grasshopper legs and the quick notes of birdsong.

The boy walked to shore, stumbling.

“I’m from Baker Street, in London,” said the boy, because he thought the river must have washed him elsewhere. “Can anyone help me find my way home?”

Again, there was no reply, so the boy walked away from the sparkling river, into the trees ahead.

As he walked, he realized one of his shoes was missing, because the grass tickled his foot through his sock. The dirt was soft and wet, which wasn’t at all like the pavement and cobblestone he was used to walking on.

After he walked for a little while, the boy found a clearing. There were three little stones sitting around a large flat one, like chairs around a table. On top of one of the short stones, there was something moving. It was a being composed of light, and it was bright and shimmering and blue like the jewel he had seen in the water.

Then the light turned, and the boy could see that it had a face and a graceful, lithe body like a young woman. When the Lady saw the boy, her eyes widened and she bolted upright.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded. “How did you get here?”

“I-I’m sorry, miss,” said the boy. “I don’t—”

“Get out!” she said, stomping her foot. “Begone!”

There was a flash of light so bright that it hurt the boy’s eyes even when he brought both hands in front of them. And with that light came the feeling of


The boy found himself on a familiar muddy riverbank, every fiber of his clothes heavy with wetness. He looked around him and saw soot-coated brick buildings, and a dun, cloudy sky, and a great, big, murky river. Even though he had only spent minutes at the clear brook in the woods, the sky was already dark and orange.

Frightened, the boy scrambled to his feet and ran down the road that would lead him home. His shoe was still missing, and the hard cobblestone made his foot sore.

When he got home his mother gasped and scolded him for being so late and for his appearance. She stripped off his sodden jacket and dragged him by the ear to his father for a spanking for swimming and losing his shoe.

The boy’s father, who had been a soldier in the Great War, didn’t like to spank his children. Instead, once the boy’s mother left them, he sat in his chair, smoking his pipe for a while. When he was through, he told the boy that he was almost a man and ought to behave like one. The way he spoke was oddly quiet and heavy, but the boy was still frightened over what had happened at the river so he didn’t say anything back.

When the boy’s father saw that the boy had nothing to say, he shook his head and closed his eyes sadly. He sent the boy to bed without supper, lit his pipe again, and went back to smoking in the drawing room.

The boy lay in bed, underneath his covers for a long time before he finally fell asleep. And when he went to school the next day, his teacher was cross with him again, because he had forgotten all about having his parents sign the headmaster’s note, which must have been lost in the river.

It was more than a week before the boy felt brave enough to visit the river again.

On a Sunday afternoon, he put on his warmest jacket, and he made his way down to the riverbank. It took him a while, but eventually he found the spot in the river where he could see the shining blue shimmer in the water, the color of the Lady’s light.

The boy took off his jacket and left it folded neatly on the dry ground. He rolled up his trouser legs and waded into the water, just before it became too deep. Holding his breath and reaching out, he found that he could just reach the glowing shimmer with the tip of his finger before he lost balance, and soon he was

falling again…

Once more, the boy found himself in a clear, knee-deep brook. A late afternoon sun shone overhead, and the air smelled like dirt and wood and wildflowers.

This time, he crept his way to the clearing, hiding behind trees and boulders. But when he reached the clearing, the Lady already knew he was there. With a wave of a hand, the bush he was hiding beneath wilted and sank into the dirt, leaving him staring eye to eye with her.

“You’ve returned,” she said, simply. “Show me the entrance you took, so that I may close it as I have done with the others. Then I will send you away.”

The boy shook his head.

A look of comprehension passed across the Lady’s features.

“Oh yes, I had almost forgotten,” she said. With a twist of her hand and a flash of light, she suddenly held in her grasp two items. A muddy left shoe and a folded paper that was all wrinkly from being made wet and dry again.

“You’ve come back to claim your belongings, haven’t you?” she asked. “Take them, and then leave me to my solitude, boy.”

“No,” said then boy, when he finally found his voice. “I came here because I wanted to see you.”

A moment passed, as if the spirit were contemplating something, before she said, “Why would you want to see me?”

“Because you’re magic,” said the boy.

The Lady scoffed.

“Simple boy, I am not magic. I am a part of this world, even more than you are.”

“But you’re beautiful, and I’ve never seen anything like you before,” the boy insisted.

The Lady turned up her nose. “Why should I care for the adoration of a delinquent?” The Lady unfurled the wrinkled letter with a flick of her wrist and pointed at the contents. “There is no thing I despise more in the world than meaningless violence.”

“I—it wasn’t like that!” the boy stammered. The Lady raised an eyebrow, as if prompting him to continue, so he did. He explained how the other boys were cruel, and how his teacher didn’t understand, and how his headmaster didn’t care.

The Lady sat there on her stone stool for a while, thinking about what he had to say. A thought seemed to cross her mind, and she waved her hand in idle dismissal.

“Now I understand,” she said, “but it matters not. I haven’t much longer, and I intend to spend the rest of my time in peace.”

“What do you mean?” asked the boy. “Will you be leaving soon?”

“Yes,” said the Lady, flatly. She looked around the clearing, wistfully. “The river has been dying for the past two centuries. At this rate, I’ll be gone by the end of the next one.”

The boy stole a glance back towards the clear, crystal stream behind them. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it at all.

“Not that brook,” the Lady smiled, despite herself. “The one out there she said, pointing upwards. The one that runs through your city.” The very last word slid off her tongue with disgust.

“Oh,” said the boy. “Then, where are we, miss?”

“We’re in my haven. Time flows slower and more peacefully here,” said the Lady. “I made this place long, long ago to share with the company of friends. It is a memory of what I used to be. But no longer.”

Leaning over the stone table, she rested her chin on her hand.

“When they began to pour ashes into my waters, I begged the last of my companions to put an end to it. Foolishly, I assumed that her inaction was borne not of inability, but of ignorance. She told me that there was nothing she could do, but I believed her not. So I closed the doors that linked my haven to the world, and locked them out of spite.”

The Lady sighed.

“That was more than a century and a half ago. She is certainly gone by now,” said the Lady. “Only when the torrents of ash and brine and poison continued did I realize she was right. Only when they continued to put up concrete barriers that stifled my breath did I realize that this kind of madness goes beyond the ability of just one person to stop.”

“I’m sorry,” said the boy.

“You needn’t be. My end has been a long time coming, and I’ve prepared myself for it.”

“Then why do you want to be alone?”

A long pause stretched out.

“Because Beatrice is gone,” said the Lady, “And I didn’t think there would be anyone after her.”

“Well, I can be here,” said the boy, resolutely. “No one ought to be alone when they die.”

The Lady flinched at the last word, but then her expression softened.

“It will not happen tomorrow,” she said, “or the day after that. It might not be decades before I go. Will you still visit? Even when you are grown and have better things to do?”

“Yes,” promised the boy, “I’ll visit. I’ll visit every day if I can”

The Lady cast soft eyes towards the boy.

“What shall we do, then?” she asked. “Beatice liked to read, so we would spend hours with our feet in the water and books in our hands.”

“I like to play games,” said the boy. “Do you like to play any games?”

The edge of a grin worked its way around the corner of the Lady’s mouth.

“Beatrice taught me tag,” she said. “I love to run.”

The boy kept his promise, and he visited the Lady many times. In the winters, when it was bitterly cold, the boy would still come, holding a bundle of dry clothes up above the water with one hand as the rest of him dipped into the icy river reaching for the gate. In the summers, the boy would bring biscuits and gooseberries and they would spend hours in the shade of the haven’s trees.

One day, when the boy had become a young man, he visited the Lady, as he had many times before. But there were no singing birds in the trees, and there were no insects in the grass. When he walked into the clearing, the Lady was not waiting for him as usual. Instead, she lay slumped over the stone table, unmoving, her normally radiant sapphire light barely a glow.

“Tamesa!” cried the young man, calling her by name. He took her graceful form into his arms and shook her with gentle and desperate hands.

The Lady’s eyes fluttered open, and they met the young man’s own. A moment later, her light shone brighter again, though not as bright as the boy thought he remembered it being.

“What happened?” asked the young man, as he helped the Lady sit up.

“Forgive me,” she said, rubbing her eyes with the back of a hand. “It has been a hard week, and it’s become difficult for me to maintain this haven.”

The young man nodded, but said nothing. He had noticed how much fouler the river had become over the years, but he had not seen any effect on the Lady until now.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “for all of the beastly things my people have been doing to you. If it were up to me, the lot of them would hang.”

“Don’t say that,” said the Lady. A flash of anger danced across her face, and in that moment she seemed as sharp and as brilliant and as beautiful as ever. “You know how much I hate it. I thought you were above these sorts of things.”

There was a pause which lasted far longer than it ought have while the young man pondered over his next words.

“What it is?” asked the Lady. “What’s wrong?”

When she leant forward, she saw the guilt in the young man’s eyes, and she said very quietly, “What have you done?”

“I’m going off to war,” said the young man.

There were no bird chirps or cricket noises to fill the silence between them.

“Why?” asked the Lady. “Why would you? I’ve always thought you were better than this.”

“Because…” the young man’s voice trailed away before he found it again. “Because it’s more complicated than that. There are some bad men who took the lands of others for their own.”

“So let them!” The Lady waved an arm in frustration. “What is a little space of ground compared to a life?”

“It’s more than that,” insisted the young man. “These men, they want to conquer us and make us like them. They want to destroy our way of life.”

The Lady sneered. “So is your way of living worth dying for? Worth killing for? Foolish boy, it is life itself that is precious.”

“They would hurt us and everything we care about if we let them,” said the young man. He took a breath to steel himself. “And if I am honest, I care not about the lives of those men. Lately, I care not even for my own life. Only for you.”

The intention in his voice was unmistakable. The Lady was silent as comprehension dawned across her features.

“Tamesa,” said the young man, as he reached into his pocket, “I love you.”

With fumbling, clumsy fingers, he opened a little velvet box that held a modest circle of gold.

“Oh Adam,” said the Lady. She did not reach out to take the offered ring. “You silly, foolish boy. Can a man love the wind or the rain? Or the sun or the moon? Can a man love a river?”

“This one can,” said the young man. “Don’t you love me too? After all the time we’ve spent together?”

The Lady gently took the box, pressed it between the young man’s hands, and held them together between her own.

“I love you,” she said, “the same way the rain loves to fall. I love you the way that every living thing loves the touch of the sun and the kiss of the moon. But I do not and cannot love you the way a pretty girl loves a foolish boy. I cannot love you the way a wife loves her husband.”

The young man’s face fell, and his shoulders lost all of the steel he put into them. He looked into the Lady’s eyes and knew she was telling the truth.

“Can’t we just pretend, then?” he said, foolishly and desperately.

“No,” said the Lady.

The young man nodded and put the ring away.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry for being a foolish, little boy.”

“Don’t be,” said the Lady. “Should I be sorry for being a fading river? I am a creature of my nature, just as you are.”

The two of them sat, as they did many times before, in the shade of their favorite tree. But after just a moment, the young man stood up.

“I have to go,” he said. “My train leaves in an hour. I should have told you sooner. I should have told you everything sooner. But I have to go, now.”

“Then go,” she said, running her fingers through his messy hair. “Fight your war, as your nature tells you to. But come back to me.”

“I will,” said the boy. “I have a promise to keep, after all.”

With a nod, the Lady raised a hand and in a flash of light, sent him away.

Fighting the war was the most difficult thing the young man had ever done. Every day he thought about the Lady and her river, and he wished he could be back home.

By the time the war had ended, he was a changed man. He found that he thought about his father much more, even though his father had died of a heart attack several years before. He even learned to smoke, just as his father did, from friends in the army.

When he returned to London, he found out that his old house had been bombed away and that his mother was living with his uncle out in the country. The man booked a night at the inn, which was filled with many other soldiers, too. But as soon as he could, he left his things in the room, locked the door with the key they gave him, and walked down the familiar path to the riverside.

The river had only grown worse in his absence. Even as he rolled up his sleeves and trouser legs, he nearly gagged from a scent like rotten eggs that hung above the water. And even in the darkness, he could only faintly make out the shimmer in the water that was the gateway into the Lady’s haven.

Holding his breath, he waded out into the water and reached out. Just as he touched the light, as he had many times ago, he began


… but this time it didn’t stop.

He swam in a black, formless vertigo—a darkness that was as complete as it was empty. Struggling to find himself, the man cupped his hands around his mouth and called out into the blackness.

“Tamesa,” he cried. “Tamesa!”

Then, out of the stillness, came a voice so soft that at first he thought it was from his own mind.

“You came,” said the Lady. “You came back to me.”

“Yes,” said the man. “I’m here. But where are you?”

“I’m so sorry,” said the Lady. “It took all my strength to keep the door open for you, but I couldn’t save the haven. It’s gone.”

“That’s okay,” said the man, as he shivered in the cold. “None of that matters.”

“Thank you,” said the Lady. “Thank you for keeping your promise to me, even after all these years. You were right—it’s good to be with someone at the end.”

The man’s mouth dropped in surprise. “You’re not going now, are you?” he gasped.

“No,” the Lady said, “but it will be soon. And when I send you back, this time, I shan’t have the strength to open the door again.”

The man pulled his hair in frustration. “I should have come sooner.”

“No,” said the Lady. Her voice was weak, but happy. “You have come at just the right time, Adam.”

Another minute of quiet passed between them before the Lady spoke again.

“Tell me,” she said, “are you happy?”

And even though happiness was the furthest thing from the man’s mind, he answered, “Yes.” After a moment, he continued.

“When I was at war, a mortar shell landed about a yard away from me.” The man took off his shirt and pointed at several scars, even though he didn’t know if the Lady could see him. “Knocked me twenty feet away, broke just about every bone I had, and put four pieces of shrapnel in me.”

“And that makes you happy?” asked the Lady.

The man couldn’t help but laugh at her bemused tone.

“No, it certainly didn’t. But I spent the rest of the war at a field hospital.” He smiled. “I met a girl, there. Her name’s Heather and she’s from America. She was the nurse who helped put me back together, and I love her with all my heart. She’s given me her address, and as soon as I can, I’m going to move to New York with her.”

“Wonderful,” said the faint voice that bore the sound of a smile. “That’s so very wonderful.” But then she continued in a much more tired voice than before. “But if that's so, I need to send you back now.”

The man’s bearded jaw dropped.

“No!” he said. “I’ve just gotten here! We need more time!”

“I have not been able to keep hold of this place’s time,” said the Lady. “Almost an entire week has passed since you came here. And it will only become worse as my strength fades. If you stay here, your American girl will forget about you.”

“Please!” cried the man, “Just a little longer, Tamesa!”

“No,” said the Lady. “I shall not steal away your life for the sake of one that is ending.”

A flickering, blinding light engulfed the man, as he struggled not to go.

“Tamesa, please,” he begged. “Let me stay. I’ll miss you so much.”

“So will I,” said the faint, whispering voice. “I love you, Adam.”

And then the falling


The man found himself kneeling at a muddy, rancid riverbank in the midafternoon sun. For the first time since he was a boy, he felt dreadfully alone.

The man came back to the riverside the next day and the next, but he never found the shimmering blue gate where it had always been since his boyhood. Finally, when he received a concerned telegram from his mother, he took the train out to his uncle’s house to see her.

He spent a month there, out in the country. There were many things in his mind after the war and after the Lady’s departure, and his uncle was kind enough to let him stay while he sorted himself out. He spent most days outside, in the shade of a great oak tree, thinking about the things he had done and seen and remembering the tree that the Lady had sat underneath with him.

When he was finally ready, he sent his American girl a telegraph to tell her that he was coming. The next week, he bought a ticket for a boat heading to New York City. After many days at sea, he saw the city and the great statue that guarded it, and it reminded him of his own Lady at home.

It took the man several hours to find the girl’s address, but he did. When the girl opened the door, her eyes sparkled like stars and she threw her arms around his neck.

The man couldn’t help himself, and he cried. He cried harder than he did even on the day of his last visit to the Lady, when he had been left on the muddy shore with nothing but his memories. It was the hardest, deepest, and the best cry he could ever remember having.

The man began to work at the girl’s father’s repair shop. It was good, difficult work that left him tired with sore fingers and a sore back every day.

The next spring, the man married his girl, and they had a son soon after that. And then they had a daughter, and then another daughter, and then another son. It was a happy life, filled to the brim and over again. He found himself thinking less and less about the Lady, even though he felt a pang of guilt when he realized it. He never told another soul about the Lady, but he was never sure why he didn’t.

Eventually, his life became so filled with children and nieces and nephews and grandchildren that the only times he remembered the Lady was for a few minutes some mornings if he dreamt about her the night before.

When his first grandchild had become old enough to find a job, the old man’s thoughts were finally filled with home. He thought about the lot on Baker Street where his house used to be. He thought about the food and drink they had in England that he couldn’t find in America. And he thought most of all about a river and its Lady.

Even though he thought he didn’t tell anyone, somehow word reached his grandson that he wanted to visit London again. The boy went and took extra shifts at his job without telling anyone, and gave the old man enough money for two plane tickets to London a few days before his fifty-third anniversary.

The old man wanted to hug his grandson so tightly, but when he put his arms around him, he found that there was no strength in them anymore. His grandson’s hug was much firmer than his own, and he wasn’t even trying.

The old man thought about how long the Lady must have been gone, and how long he himself had left. So on his anniversary, he spent the day on a plane with his wife. He had been on a plane before in the war, and the trip brought back many memories that he shared with his wife and the passengers around him during the flight.

When they arrived, it was evening. His wife was tired from the trip, so he took her to an inn—the same one he had stayed at after the war—and put her to bed. But he wasn’t tired at all because of jet-lag, so the man went out on his own.

He went to Baker Street, and saw that where his house had once been, there was now a clothing store that sold dresses and shirts in the oddest shapes and colors he had ever seen.

He went to his old school, and saw that it had been renovated. It had computers in some of the classrooms and bright fluorescent lights everywhere.

And then the old man went to the river. And when he was there, he looked at it and gasped.

The river ran clean. There were birds bathing at its surface and fish swimming in the water. There were grasses and bulrushes growing at the banks. The river ran cleaner than it did even in the old man’s childhood.

A student walking by saw the old man staring at the river, and asked him what was wrong. When the old man asked her how the river could be so clear, the student told him about the restoration the government did back in the seventies. She told him how there were new laws to make sure the river would always be clean and healthy forever.

When the student was done, the old man walked down to the riverbank. He took off his shoes, which took him a long time because his fingers were cold and tired. He rolled up his sleeves and his trouser legs, which took a long time because his arms were stiff and weak. Then he found the spot at the riverside that he knew so well.

And when he tilted his head just so, he found a sparkling emerald light, right where the blue one used to be. And when he reached out his hand and touched it, he found himself


The old man found himself in a clear, knee-deep stream that babbled between trees and smooth, grey stones. His memory served him well, and he soon made his way to the clearing in the woods where three little stone stools sat around a great stone table. And at one of those stools sat a shimmering green light—a Lady with a smile on her face as wide as the sun itself. For a moment, the old man wondered if she recognized him, but the Lady's smile grew even wider as she saw him.

"Welcome back, Adam," she said.

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#1 · 3
· · >>Bachiavellian
My heart hurts.

I want to believe one of Beatrice's grandchildren grew up hearing stories about how much fun her grandma had in the rivers that surrounded her neighbourhood. Then, once they became an adult, went on to have a career in politics where they advocated for pro-enviromental laws until they managed to start a program to cleanse London's rivers.

It was a pity the Lady of the River couldn't love Adam the way he loved her, but I'm happy to know they could remain friends even after all that time.

Lovely story, it felt as if I was being told a fairy tale of modern times. Good job.
#2 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
I'm pretty happy this didn't fall into heavy-handed moralizing. (Pollution is baaaaaaad!)

This line stuck out to me as a bit obvious:

“Tamesa!” cried the young man, calling her by name.

I mean, sure, people say 'subtlety is dangerous in the Writeoff', but... it's not like there's anyone else in the area he could be talking to. :P

The happy ending was nice, if a bit... deus ex, maybe. Unearned. I mean, I'm not really complaining, but... it just kinda happened.
#3 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
Oh hey, I feel like you must have seen Spirited Away. The Lady is very much Haku from Spirited Away and utilizes some of the same archetypes, but this tells a slightly different story.

With that out of the way, this was a pleasant read. I felt that it resembled a bit of a pastiche of the aforementioned spoiler, The Giving Tree, and perhaps a tinge of C.S Lewis. I find myself unable to lobby much critique at it only because the critique I would give would be against the spirit of the piece itself, which is to say, personally I would have enjoyed something a bit more substantial in the subtext, but ultimately that wasn't the intention of this story. Additionally, I do feel it may be a bit too derivative from the above if my suspicions in the aforementioned spoiler are correct.

This is very much in the vein of a traditional Disney adaptation of a fairy tale: a pleasant, inoffensive, and high quality production, but does not have much of an edge to it. In a slightly more reduced state, I could easily see this being a lovely children's book. I have no issues with this story's conclusion as presented in that sort of tone.

Verdict: strong, whimsical writing for a classic fairy tale, but may leave you wanting more underneath
#4 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
The River Lady — A- — The kid falls into a river in London and survives. Seems improbable. (snerk) Ok, getting more serious. The story involves pollution without going all Captain Planet, which is good. Happy ending, striving as a thread through the story, also good. Good, solid pattern and characterization. Held my interest through the whole thing, also good. And better than mine, darnit.
#5 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
The River Lady

Even after thinking about it for some time, I'm not sure if I like this story or not. It certain has its fair share of faults:

The faux-fairytale style of prose doesn't quite ring true, and often comes off as plodding. The dialogue has the same affliction.

The characters and their relationship felt shallow. This could charitably be interpreted as an attempt to give them a sort of universal, ethereal quality – but that doesn't quite fly, so rather than silhouettes glimmering in the mist, we're left a pair of laminated cardboard cutouts. Something else that feels like a symptom of this: The narrative insists on referring to the characters as “the boy/man” and “the Lady” even in circumstances where a simple pronoun would suffice – and yet we're given both their names. The effect is at once arch and mundane. Pick one and stick with it, unless you've got a point to make by mixing the two.

The themes also lack depth. We get an explicit chat about violence and war – but neither party has anything really significant to say about the matter, and the matter is eventually dropped without going anywhere. The matter of pollution fares slightly better. It governs the whole story, and for the most part avoids lecturing, but there still wasn't much there. From the intersection of the two, I suppose you could dig out a theme of nature versus civilisation, a trope which was beaten into the ground a long time ago.

Finally, zooming out a little bit more, I can't help but feel the entire thing is cloyingly sentimental. Everything's fine in the end. Isn't life hopeful? But the story never does any hard thinking, so the happiness and affirmation feels undeserved.

And yet …

For all the dissection above, I didn't dislike this. I can't hold my instinctive aversion to sentimentality against it too much. And there are a few gems in there – the lady playing tag stood out to me, as did the weak hug near the end.
#6 ·
Congrats to our winners! I didn't manage to read every finalist entry like I usually try to, but I did read our three medalists, and they were all very well-deserved!

First off, I wanna apologize for my spotty review participation this round. Life really decided to kick my ass this week. My computer's power supply unit died last Saturday, and the replacement came in yesterday. But after I put the new PSU in, it looked like it was faulty too, cause it fried my HDD and my optical drive. So until I can get a refund on that and get replacement parts for all three, my desktop's out of commission. And today, a regular car tune-up and oil change at the mechanic's turned into a 500 dollar fiasco. This all decided to happen while I'm in between debit cards, so I've been having to bump money around bank accounts and borrow a lot from my brother to get it all taken care of. On top of everything, I start a new job tomorrow, which I still don't feel qualified for at all.

Somebody send help. Lots of it.

Retrospective: The River Lady

So, I decided to try my hand at a fairy tale this round, and I'm actually really surprised that this did so well! Like I mentioned earlier in the thread, I really had no ideas for this prompt until Saturday night, so basically all of the writing happened on Sunday. It was a bit of a race to the finish from the beginning, and I'm not entirely pleased with how parts of this turned out. Still, there must be something here that people liked, or at the very least, aren't offended by. :twilightblush:

The idea for this one actually originally came to me as King Arthur fanfiction, with the Lady being the Lady of the Lake. In the course of doing research on British bodies of water, however, I stumbled onto a news article, talking about the restoration of the Thames river. For some reason, I really latched onto that idea as a conflict, and kind of tweaked my story to fit. I was actually really debating whether or not to put a little blurb at the end, talking about how the Thames was declared ecologically dead in the 1960's, before winning the Theiss River prize in 2010 for its restoration. In the end, I thought it might have sounded too preachy, so I left it out.

Thank you! I'm very glad you guys enjoyed it!

Yeah, I totally agree. If I were reviewing this story, I'd definitely mention that it has issues with carving out its stakes and handling its resolution. And yes, that line was probably a bit dopey of me to include, in hindsight. Thanks for your thoughts!

To my great embarrassment, I have actually not yet seen Spirited Away. After I saw Princess Mononoke back in freshman year of college, I resolved to also watch other great anime films, like Spirited Away, Akira, and My Neighbor Totoro. Five years later, I still haven't gotten around to seeing any of them. :S

But you are absolutely correct about Shel Silverstein and C.S. Lewis being inspirations, especially for the prose style. Another big source of inspiration was a book of Arthurian legends I read growing up. I've never written a fairy tale before, so I relied on them a lot to get down the pacing, tone, and general feel of the writing.

And I totally understand what you're saying about needing more depth. This was a bit of a rush job, and I wasn't sure were I was going with the themes outside of a very surface level. Thanks for your feedback!

>>Scramblers and Shadows
A big part of what I was trying to do with the narration was to avoid dialogue and names in scenes outside of the Lady's haven, in order to give her haven a unique mood. I was also hoping that it would make the places where I do use their names feel more significant. But if it didn't work, I understand how that would come across as inconsistent and frustrating.

The whole thing about war wasn't so much supposed to be a theme as it was supposed to show a bit of contrast between Adam and the Lady's way of thinking. She's supposed to be pretty alien in a lot of ways, especially with how she views death and dying. Again, I was probably not clear about this at all, and I totally see where you're coming from.

And yes, I also agree with your observations about the general flatness of the characters and the resolution. I've got a lot to learn, and I appreciate your insight!