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Long Story Short · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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How I Survived Christmas
I shifted in my seat as I placed my phone beside me. There really was no comfortable way to sit on it, always one corner poking you in the ass somewhere. The water I sipped on was stale and warm, but whatever, I wasn’t really going to complain over that.

“So…” I gestured around me. The flickering lights and noise made it hard to focus my voice, but I tried to ignore that as best as I could. “I guess you guys want to know.”

I leaned back, and cleared my throat.

“It had to be Christmas of course, why wouldn’t it be, right? That one time of the year that guilt makes you gullible enough to be tricked into visiting your family. No work or school, so there’s really no excuse. Well, that was my situation, unfortunately.”

“It’s not bad if you’re driving like ten minutes across town, it’s a different matter entirely when your parents live on an island in the middle of goddamn nowhere, making you have to drive all day to get out there. And that’s not even the worst part, honestly. That would be bearable if you could at least leave on your own time but no, getting to an island requires a ferry, and those goddamned things have set schedules and set capacities. So not only do I have to time my trips out home, I have to be out there early enough to beat all the other schmucks waiting until Christmas Eve to come home.”

I sighed, took another sip of water, and glanced around.

“Anyways, back on track. The drive wasn’t that bad, at least. I managed to get on the road easily. Guess it was only dumb asses like me waiting so late before going home for the holidays. So, yeah, I make the long drive, stop for gas in a few places, whizz, get something to eat, yadda, yadda, the whole usual travel shebang. Eventually I’m there, waiting at the dock, back sore and feet numb from having driven all day. Mission complete right? Well, not yet.”

I briefly check my phone, there’s still isn’t a signal. I look back up an continue.

“It’s pitch black out when they finally let us board. And the only lights in this rural part of goddamn nowhere is the ferry. So we board. The workers force me out of my vehicle and up into the little lobby area to pay and sit down, apparently you’re not allowed to stay in your car anymore on the the ride home. Must’ve changed since the last time I was home.

“The trip isn’t too bad, you know? Only about fifty or so minutes, but Jesus if it isn’t boring. No wifi, no TV, and no one I really know on the boat. Can’t even get a cell signal half the time because there’s barely any cell towers out in this part. Basically you sit there and either nap, or talk to someone, or look out one of the windows and zone out.”

I chuckled, and stretch my arms slightly.

“About half an hour of mind numbing boredom, I get up to whizz. Figured I might as well before we get home, that way I’m not rushing to the house pissing my pants. First time I’ve seen mom and dad in months and pushing them both out of the way to make a beeline towards the washroom sends the wrong impression I think.”

“So I get up, go in the bathroom, whizz, and wash my hands. And that’s when it hits me. No, not an idea or anything. But the mirror. I’m just washing my hands, picking at my face a little bit, when the whole floor underneath me twists and the mirror comes rushing up to meet my face with a nice little ‘how do you do’.

“Now the only reason I’m still alive must be because the doors on the ferry are pressurized and sealed to prevent flooding from one room to the next. I must’ve been out for a few minutes, because when I came to, there’s glass everywhere, the emergency lights are on, and everywhere outside I can hear the metal twisting and rupturing.”

I look at my phone again, still no signal. The water bottle sloshes as the hull shifts around me.

“So what happens next? I… I don’t know, but I hope you find me soon.”

I pressed the record button on my phone, and put my head in my hands.
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#1 ·
Wait... So the MC goes on this tirade about their day and the events leading up to the farry having an accident, only to press the record button afterwards? Was that a rehearsal to make sure no details were left behind? Oddities aside, I find the protagonist's nonchalance when facing possible death hard to believe. It doesn't come off as resignation, but more of an annoyance, as though being stuck in the bathroom of a sinking ferry was more of an inconvenience than anything.
#2 ·
So the guy is trapped in the john while the ferry sinks?

I think the final record button push stops the recording.

I don’t have many things to say. It’s a story, it has an arc, but the story is just meh. Maybe the execution is faulty? First, it’s pretty straightforward and linear. Then, I think it’s just that we don’t really know the guy enough to root for him, and the way the story is told doesn’t really try to grab us.

In fact, the account of the story doesn’t jibe with the final situation. I don’t really see a guy trapped in a toilet while the ship he’s on is sinking turn on his phone and record such a disaptionate account of his day. I would rather expect something like “Dear parents, I love you. Goodbye…”

I think that that clash, together with the fact that the story is somewhat bland, really drags the story down.
#3 · 2
· · >>QuillScratch
Y'all get morbid around Christmas.

Anyhow, I basically want to reiterate >>AndrewRogue here. It could be argued that this does a better job in delivering clearer emotional stakes and such off the bat, but again they aren't particularly engaging. Its a retrospective of a pretty normal annoying holiday with the families. I mean, I get that, but I'm not really interested in hearing about it, if you get me.

Reposition it. Put the stakes at the front. This is my last message before I die. Suddenly this character is more interesting as we see what he chooses to say and share, how he reacts to his imminent demise, what sort of person he is, and we know we're seeing a raw depiction from the start, rather than going "Oh" at the point where we've disengaged.

Again, it is another neat idea with a great emotional core, I just think it is undermined by the ordering. Lead with the hook!
#4 · 3
And that’s when it hits me. No, not an idea or anything. But the mirror.

Oh my god, author. Dry, dark humour? This line has got it in spades.

I was going to complain about how the rest of your monologue here doesn't quite manage to make jokes like this, despite a tone that continuously hints towards it. I was going to complain about how that was almost uncomfortable to read, sitting on the edge of my seat, expecting a joke and getting none. I was going to complain that the contrast between humour and seriousness would have improved the ending of this piece... and that's when it hit me. I'm so sorry I couldn't resist.

This is a character who clearly deals with bad situations by making light of them, who fuels their hope with laughter, in a situation where they truly feel hopeless. And you know what? Showing us that even they are struggling to make light of what's happening to them not only builds a sense of unease and tension as the story progresses, but helps to drive home the despair at the end (especially as you bring in the climax of the story at the same time as the climax of that very tension by having them finally crack a joke and aaaaa that's really cool structure right there).

Now don't get me wrong, I think there's a lot that this story could do better, particularly your ending. The final line here is bland where it should be punchy, weak where it should have the strength of an emotional dam bursting. This is the moment that your lead has cracked and truly given up! Sell it to us!

I also think your hook could be stronger: while I disagree wholeheartedly with >>AndrewRogue's assessment of the hook in this piece*, I do think that the one you've got (namely the question of what has actually happened here, introduced by "I guess you guys want to know") is not nearly as strong as it should be. Perhaps it needs to come sooner? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for delayed hooks, but in cases where your hook is really a slow-building sense of mystery that pulls readers deeper and deeper in over the course of a piece rather than a single-line whammy I think that you need to give us that first little sense of mystery as early as possible. That's really the point of delayed hooks: you can only get away with them if your hook is strong enough to justify it.

But overall? I actually quite liked this one, and I think I have come to like it more over the course of re-reading it and thinking about it in depth. There's work to be done to make it shine, but you've got a great start here to build on.

*Quickly, while I think that Andrew's suggestion of opening with the stakes would make for a great thriller, I think that change is so drastic that it simply wouldn't be the story the author is trying to tell here anymore. I'd love to see that story, too! But I think the one the author has presented to us is also a neat one, and I'd love to see it tidied up in a way that remains true to its original vision, here.
#5 ·
One thing I think the story does well is the tone, which always feels vaguely uneasy. A fellow visiting his parents for the first time in years, and riding a creaky ferry to reach them definitely makes the reader feel like something’s off. It makes the ending more effective, as we’re expecting something to go wrong, but it happens in a way that wasn’t what we expected. I also enjoyed how the story utilizes dry humor, painting a portrait of a narrator who just seems so bored by the world. Even his final sardonic remarks work, as it shows him as being resigned to his fate. This was a man who was doomed before he even started this story, and the story shows that attitude very well.

That being said, one of the things that doesn’t entirely work is the narrator’s relationship with his parents. His attitude towards them throughout the piece seems to be one of indifference or even annoyance, and yet he goes to visit them just because they asked. For reference, the film Five Easy Pieces featured a similar plotline, with the main character visiting his parents because his father was dying. With this character’s bitterly sarcastic demeanor, I would think that there’d have to be a similarly strong reason for him to go, other than “he didn’t have a good excuse not to”. I also think the story’s middle slogs a bit, as it’s pretty much the narrator just describing how dull the ferry is. It gives us a good idea into his mindset during this trip, but it feels a tad longer than it needs to be. There’s only so many ways you can say “this place is boring” without the text itself becoming boring.

All in all, this was a decent fic. It set out to tell a dark story about a Christmas visit gone wrong, and largely succeeded.
#6 ·
This fic offers a better ending "twist" than most Writeoff minifics. That said, his monologue feels unnatural considering the situation.
#7 ·
You know, I was wondering about what was going on. You did not disappoint. Though I will agree, he seems a little calm for the circumstances.