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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
The Last Stand
“Last call before we head out!” bellowed the expedition leader.

Everything is the last thing on our mission. This particular beast we are hunting had been terrorizing the land for countless generations. Not even our oldest elders could remember a time when it didn't exist. And today, we are going to put an end to it. We are going to finally bring peace to this land. We are this land's last hope. I’m writing this before embarking and leaving it in our camp in case we never come back.

And if we do come back, I’ll know where to find it.

If we do manage to succeed, it’s possible that people reading this story may have no idea what beast I’m writing about. It’s hard to explain exactly what it is, but I’ll do my best.

This beast is so incredibly dreadful and frightening, we don’t even have a proper name for it. Maybe after it’s vanquished, we’ll come up with a name, but right now, we call it the Fear. No one knows what it looks like, except survivors of its attacks, but it’s not like they had much to share. My uncle was a survivor. Before the attack, he was one of the most stubborn and forceful people I knew. He knew what he wanted and he didn’t let anything stand in his way. After the attack, he became a sobbing, muttering wreck. The Fear had completely taken over his mind.

Because of this, the expedition leader prepared a pre-mission party whose main attraction was bottles of whisky. His explanation was simple: it was liquid courage, or at least as close as we could get. If we all got drunk before the mission, the Fear would have a harder time affecting us. Some of us drank more than we should have, but in the end, if it helps us win, I’ll take every advantage I can get.

Right now, I’m looking around at all the people that agreed to take on this suicide mission. There’s only five of us, but we were the most elite warriors in the land. The leader, Bran, is a tactical genius who fires his longbow with pinpoint accuracy. Siegstolz can break rocks with his bare hands and drank the most whisky out of all of us. Harold is singing to his hammer Wilma, whose broad head and solid weight have broken both beast and human bones many times over. Aisling is a fierce berserker wielding a vicious axe in each hand. Many men have underestimated her because of her gender, but she’s proved them wrong every time. She also drank copious amounts of whisky trying to outdo Siegstolz.

I am Linden. Though I am also a woman, I have vastly different talents. Since childhood, I have studied the art of death. No matter the creature, I know exactly where to stick my dagger. Many assassins employ poison, but to me, poison is a coward’s tool. Even against monsters, I still find it dishonorable. Bran was wary about employing me because of my apparent frailty, but I let my trophies speak for themselves. I take an ear from everything that I kill, even huge monsters like the one we were about to face.

The massive wall of fog in front of us beckons us to our doom, but I am not afraid. We might not live to see another sunrise, but I am not afraid. Being afraid means admitting defeat, and I never admit defeat.

Bran is urging me to put down my pen and book and join the rest of the group. I must leave this journal here, but hopefully, I will be back for it. We chose our paths, and we must stick to them. Our land can not take any more suffering...and the money I'll get doesn't hurt, either.
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#1 · 3
· · >>Miller Minus
There were a couple of things which bothered me here, only one of which is a serious detriment to the story as a whole.

Let me start with the small issues. The story starts with the expedition leader crying out a prompt drop, even though the rest of the tale is the main character's journal. It really feels odd for her to include this as a line of formatted dialogue instead of just talking about how the leader is calling for them.

Another thing which I found odd was the "I am also a woman" line. Not that you can't assert a character's gender in the story, but the way it's done here is quite superfluous. Aisling's description works, because you're using her gender to establish her personality: woman in an enviroment of men who is just as capable as them. Good. Linden, on the other hand is literally stopping her introspection to say she's a woman, since being a woman is irrelevant to the backstory she presents.

Those are minor gripes, however, and wouldn't have bothered me had it not been for my biggest problem in the story. The Fear itself.

Simply put, I don't feel any threat from it, and aside from general descriptions of what the beast is, and how Linden's uncle is now a pale shadow of the man he once was, but there's nothing more for me to get scared. These characters have obviously been affected by the beast, probably lost something or someone to it, but we're not shown that. Instead we're given a short bio for each person.

Wait, no. Not a bio, a one-line voiceover as the camera zooms on them and they pose while brandishing their weapons.

It would've gone a long way to sell me on the threat if, instead of telling us what class they are and what's their preferred weapon, you had told us how The Fear has affected them. Has Bran lost his family to an attack of the beast? Did Harold's dad lose his mind after being subjected to the beast and now he's looking for revenge? Does Aisling try to outdo Siegstolz's drinking because she's trying to ease the nightmares she still has after she saw the beast rampage through a town? I mean, these characters are facing an unspeakable abomination, and I don't care if they'll make it or not because you've not given me any reason to care about them.

The "last journal entry before someone faces death" can be a powerful type of story, but I think you've still got a way to go to reach that point.
#2 · 1
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I wanted to write a review yesterday, procrastinated and now Zaid has outstripped me. :P

I simply agree on about all items he pointed out. This is not a “story”. We don’t even know if we can infer that they failed at the end (as evidence by the fact that the manuscript still exists). It’s simply a crunched, squeezed world building, but that’s all it does.
#3 ·
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Just to follow up on >>Zaid Val'Roa's comments, I would say that the current set up of having tough warriors about to head into battle without much fear of the Beast they will confront would be a very good set up for a much longer story, to which this is just a prologue. The Uncle works as great foreshadowing to what's about to happen to them, as they seem to be where he was before he became the husk of himself. And that could be a very thrilling read.

But as a minific the fact that they are as yet unaffected is what I think will cause this story to sit a touch low on the standings: the other stories are simply more complete.

But again, as a prologue I think this is strong.
#4 ·
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How can this not be a JoJo story?

Anyway...

You have an immediate credibility issue. The narrator is writing this, but he's recording dialogue? And he's writing in this much detail and in such a literary method while he's geared up and about to start his mission? That doesn't ring true.

This is also one of those stories that would like to tell us everything from a distance as exposition instead of actually seeing any of it happen. That's hard to do while keeping it engaging, and I think a journal-type format is a poor fit for an action story. It's trying to tell about exciting events while the narrator is sitting there calmly writing in a book, which creates a dissonance.

No one knows what it looks like except the survivors? And they haven't told anyone? Seems like that would be common knowledge. I get that they have a hard time describing it, but the way you've worded that is extremely suspect.

You're taking an awful lot of word count to introduce characters who are unimportant. In a longer story, you could do this so we get to know them, but we never will here, so don't waste word count on them. One pretty solid rule of writing flash fiction is that you can't support a cast of more than two or three. You just can't develop them to the point the reader will care about them.

Some tense switches... eh, that last line. You really undercut the sense of honor and duty, which ends things on a sour note. Plus we don't know what happened. Did this journal survive because she returned? If someone else found it, then at least the Fear hasn't wiped out the world's population... yet. Or is this just sitting there on a lifeless planet? You set up this question, and it's not really the kind you can leave unanswered effectively.

I bet you'd be good at writing a D&D campaign, but this is hard to get into as flash fiction. Too many characters to juggle, a vague enough conflict, and a format that doesn't make logical or tonal sense. There's writing talent under here, but I suspect you're just not used to what kind of story you can tell within this kind of word limit.