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Long Story Short · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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What Do Monsters Dream About?
*** If the title wasn’t enough of a clue, here is your last chance to leave this entry. ***

“Told you that wasn’t a good idea.”

Abdelhak’s wild-eyes goggle in pain. His chest heaves with difficulty. He has to search deep down inside in order to speak.

“Of my faults, I have no regrets. Of my joys, no merits. History will only have the years of my memory, and Eternity the falseness of my sleep.”

I take a look at him. In spite of some his guts being out in the open, he bears the same smug expression.

“Damn, Sid Ali was a Big Brain, a true poet,” he gurgles. “Can’t believe how unpredictable people are. I thought he was a dumbass, some kind of coward, but at the moment of truth, he found a courage from only Allah knows where.” He nods towards me. “You remember? He refused to kneel. He didn’t even shiver when I put my gun on his temple. Go on, he said, I’m ready. You can profane this body, but not this mind. His head burst like a giant boil. It didn’t alter his fucking smile.”

He gurgles again. “You remember?”

I don’t, I wasn’t there.

But I didn’t forget.

How can you when you spend your days twisting your memory, and your nights bringing it back together again? Like a cursed puzzle, blurring it again and again, as soon as it’s dawn… Every day. Every night. Non-stop…

We call that obsession, and we think the word is enough to prevail over the abyss.

What do we really know about obsession?

I’ve killed my first man three months ago, Tuesday January 23rd at 6:50. It was a magistrate. I can clearly remember these details, but his face has long melted with the others, only leaving the vague feeling that I’ve lost myself this day, tumbling over, body and soul, in a parallel world from where I will never come back. I think I believed at some point this was the worst I could live, that taking another human’s life was the lowest I could ever find myself. I discovered later that it was getting accustomed to do it that was the lowest.

Abdelhak coughs. A searing spasm brings him even lower. He grasps his grisp, stretching his legs with a whimper.

“Do you think they’ll remember us?” he asks.

“Shut up and keep you strength.”

“Right, we have a long way ahead.”

I don’t know if he’s ironic or realistic. I don’t really care at this point.

Outside, a screaming voice orders that we surrender. Apparently, that’s our last warning. It’s not like we could do much. My leg is in pieces, and Abdel won’t go anywhere. There is no way out, and it’s better like that. The realisation hits me, but somehow I’m relieved. I notice Abdelhak doesn’t feel the same.

He points his gun towards his face. His smile stretches, grotesque and pathetic at the same time. I watch him like in a dream, not even trying to stop him.

“I go ahead,” he says. “You never know...”

The gunshot explodes inside the rathole where we are hiding, the first note of a concert that soon follows outside. There isn’t any missing musician; the entire orchestra is here, and their music echo through the streets of a town unfortunately too familiar with this kind of performances.

I’ll never see the finale.
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#1 · 3
Inna-Lillahi-Wa-Inna-Lilahi-Rajim, Abdelhak.

I liked the prose, and how it let us dwell in the mind of our unnamed protagonist. I feel you could've gone a bit deeper and describe the depths to which he feels he's sunk, that would've given us a better grasp on how he feels now that he faces the end. Also, that closing paragraph was great, kudos for that.
#2 ·
The warning was unnecessary, but fair enough.

It’s difficult to paint what plays inside the head of a (supposed) terrorist facing his last moments. I’m not sure what you’ve written jibes with what I envision myself, and I can’t help thinking you’re off here. Radical Islamic terrorists, as you no doubt want to paint here, seem to be elated people, who welcome death because they’re eager to die as martyrs. That’s irrational. The portrait you paint here is much too level-headed for me to swallow it. Recontextualize it as two ISIS fighters being cornered by the Iraqi army, and you have something much more realistic (to me).

Well re-skimming over it, I’m not sure they’re terrorist, but it’s ambiguous.

Otherwise, it’s competently written, solid enough, but there’s nothing really shining. We cannot really root for those guys, so their death let us somewhat unconcerned.

I think the subject is simply too vast to be tackled into a minific. As it is written, I felt it was a replay of Hitler’s death in his bunker.
#3 · 2
The ambiguity of the scene here is a bit distracting. I assume, given the current climate and the few concrete details (plus the title) we get that this is indeed about terrorists. I'm not really sure if it just mental biases about what you'd expect extremists to actually sound like, but the voicing here is very distinctly "American" if that makes sense, which pushes the ambiguity harder than you intended I think.

Whether this read of the voicing is accurate or not is its own question, but even if the fault is 100% with me, it is worth noting it.

Beyond that... much like Short a Long Story, I really don't have a lot to say here because the fic otherwise basically sets out to achieve what it wanted to achieve (a bit of a somber reminiscence on life).
#4 · 2
I think I would've preferred this if it was about actual hiding-under-the-bed, Monsters Inc monsters. I don't care for the subject matter, to be honest, but none of this hits the mark emotionally. It feels fragmented, jumping between topics: Abdel's story, philosophising on obsession the protagonist's first kill, Abdel's suicide, random sentimentality over music. If he's regretting his choices, why is it a relief that there's no way out? Is he in so much pain that his mind is flitting about between different thoughts, as if in death throes?

I'm just not sure what this is trying to say, and sometimes I like that in a story, but I'm sorry to say it didn't work for me here at all.
#5 · 2
Well, that ended up better than another Write-Off story with “Monster” in the title.

In all seriousness, I actually enjoyed this story as a dramatic experience. Seeing a duo of terrorists in their final minutes is a fertile topic to begin with, but this story really delved into the bizarre feelings these men had toward each other and the world. I also liked the narrator’s occasional dramatic flourishes, like the gunfire being orchestra music. It really paints the picture of a man who has deluded himself into thinking his mad crusade is some grand act that can’t be topped.

But the story does feel a bit too vague in parts. For instance, the beginning was so sparsely worded that I didn’t even know Abdelhak was injured or that they were terrorists on the run. You’d think the police would’ve been mentioned there, given how that’s the main reason they’re holed up in the building. I also didn’t think the main character’s characterization was entirely consistent. At some points, he seems to be the only sane character (i.e. trying to keep Abdelhak focused on his wound instead of Paradise). But at others, he seems just as nutty as the others in his group, thinking about his obsession with being remembered as a holy warrior. I get he’s supposed to be a complex character, but these felt more like two different characters were inhabiting the same body.

On the whole, a very strong and passionate story. Find a more consistent voice and add a few more details, and this will be all the more powerful.