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Lightning in a Jar · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
The Giving, Free
I only take drugs so that I can be a better mother.

As long as I remember that, it's okay.

The modafinil is so I can mentally keep up with my six year old son, as is the adderall I've been buying off of the online grey markets. The marijuana is so I can manage the comedown and relax while he's at school, as are the devas' tears, which I get as a perk of being enmeshed in the brand new supernatural community.

Tarit is already up, of course, but he's pretending to sleep so we can play at me getting him out of bed. In the meantime, I prepare and consume my witch's brew (not an actual witch's brew, but language still has to catch up).

I also suppress a twinge of despair at the fact that demigods need only a twenty minute catnap to feel completely rested and active throughout the day, when I've only been able to cut my own rest to four hours a night...meaning I'm simply skipping so much of his development and childhood.

Nothing to it.

I go into Tarit's room, and like always, my breath catches a bit. His aquamarine skin glistens like ozone, his ice white hair waves like a thousand blades of rain.

Not as intense as his father, who was thunder in godly flesh...but I love him all the more for it.

“Waaaaaake up, sleepyhead!”

“Nuuuu!!!! I dun' wanna, mommy!!”. He retreats under the covers, using all four of his arms to better hide himself. A tiny little burrito with a filling of wonder.

“Now now, Tarit, you know you can't disappoint professor Schroeder like that...how could he possibly find a cure for Aids without you helping him?”. I ruffle the little tuft of still hair poking out.

“You're right mommy!” he emerges from the covers and stands up proud and strong. “If I just help him a little bit, he can get the Nobel and finally retire! He has so many wrinkles that his wrinkles have wrinkles!”.

I keep my expression under control and beam at him while I give him his organically grown lunch of fruits and honey. I hate how the university is subtly exploiting him, by keeping him in a bachelor's program while he's doing the work of a PhD, and I hate even more how much the tuition takes out of our finances, but graduating from Harvard will do wonders for his future, and human education systems aren't yet set up for the hyper-gifted growth of those with divine parentage. A year ago, he'd helped those vultures synthesize a completely new molecule out of aerogel and mana, and it was only by threatening them with a lawsuit that they conceded to putting his name on the paper.

“Now remember, try and make friends!” I say as I struggle to lift the backpack full of expensive textbooks and put it on his shoulder. He scowls a bit at that.

“Yes, even if they can't tell a logarithm from a cosine. Not everybody is as smart as you, and it's better to be kind to others. So no more scaring people with bolts of lightning, okay?”

“It wasn't that big of a bolt...”. He scuffs the ground with his shoes for a second, then he hugs me hard, kisses me, and he's out the door.

I blow out a sigh and relax. At least so far, he seems like a sweet boy, still with human morality and values. That's more than I hoped for.

I chew the pencil in my mouth some more, looking at the screen.

As a quant for a big name trading firm, I make a looooot of money. But, that means I also have a lot of responsibility, and that my job is very hard.

Investing in stocks is a hugely complicated puzzle, and when you throw magic into the mix...well, there's a reason sometimes I curse the fact that my dealings with the supernatural threw me where I am.

How the hell do you put a price on a faerie's laughter, especially when the faerie can and will screw you over so she can get a better profit for herself?

It's all maddening, but I'm acutely aware I can't go for a lower stress job-aside from Tarit's college tuition, I'm paying some very, very exclusive musician and artists for his non-school education...and that's without considering the charitable donations I make a point of showing to my son every month, explaining how and why it's important to help others and be a good person.

I sigh, feeling just...tired.

I can't believe I'm feeling longing for the year and a half in which Tarit gestated in my womb...right now that kind of leisure time seems unreal, as illusory as a one night's stand promises.

And then I hear the door opening. A microsecond later my son is babbling a mile a minute.

“Mommy mommy mommy! I found another demi-god at college and she's my age and we're friends already and I invited her over and she's right here and-”

A god just came in through my door.

Her three chartreuse eyes scan my home, and I'm acutely aware I'm not wearing makeup, that the desk is a bit of a mess, and that I have bags under my eyes.

“I am Ushas, Devas of the Dawn. My Daughter has Expressed Interest in Regular Meetings with your own Son, whose Parentage is Unknown to me but which I suspect is-” “Mamà, you're doing it again!”

And just like that, the spell is broken. I can breathe again. It doesn't hurt to look at her anymore.

And I finally notice the tiny figure clutching at her skirts peevishly, adorably balled fists tugging at the goddess.

“Dearest Anya, Blossom of my Heart's Garden,” “Mamà stoppit!! You're embarrassing me!!”

OH. Oh. It's finally hitting me that this could be the greatest opportuniy for Tarit I could ever have hoped for. I need to play my cards right, swallow my insecurity and fears in showing how...mortal I am, and try to make an actual lasting connection with this god.

“Oh, the pleasure is all mine, Miss Ushas! Please, please do make yourselves at home, we can leave the children to play while we have a cup of tea in the kitchen?”

Ushas looks confused for a moment, but before she can say anything Tarit comes to Anya and they both go his room, chattering excitedly all the while. He's never met another demigod, let alone someone who can understand his position, the problems he faces...this must be a great balm for a loneliness he might not have realized he was feeling.

I bustle around the kitchen, deliberately not looking at the goddess while trying to pull together my perpetually scattered thoughts. So many things to do...

“Your Son's Father is not Here.”

I drop the teacup on the floor, and it shatters in a musical crinkle, like the night's frost on wildflowers dying at the sun's first light.

For a moment, I feel a panic attack coming on, the breaking of all the levees I've built in my soul against the stress, the anxiety and the pressure of raising someone greater than myself, someone whose name will feature in history books not out of coincidence but out of simple fate.

I will be nothing but a footnote in his biography. Just a minor character, seen once and then never thought of again.

But I still have my pride.

“No. The greatest gift he gave me was Tarit. And that was enough. I may be mortal, but I like to think I've raised him well so far.”

I bear her gaze for what feels like hours, cooking under the desert sun, when gently, she...raises her hands, in a gesture of surrender.

“Peace. I meant no Offense in what I said. Truly, my Kin has a Lot to Answer for. And may you gain Succor; I am Glad your Son and my Daughter have met, and that They are Already such fast Friends.”

She waves her hand, and the teacup is suddenly whole again, steaming with tea of such fragrance I could have never brewed it myself.

“But I am Also a Goddess, and Mine is the Power to Light the Dark and Show Secrets. You are burning the Candle that is Yourself at Both ends, Sacrificing More than you Have.”

“And So, to Lighten your Burden, would you be Favorable to Future...Playdates? So our Children can Mingle, and you can Breathe.”

The pity stings, more than a bit. Even if it comes from (if I remember correctly) an all-loving incarnation of life and goodness.

I nod, not trusting myself to speak, and for the rest of the evening I am a guest in my own home. I even manage to catch a catnap which turns into actual, restful sleep.

Ushas has been an invaluable help so far.

She has helped Tarit with developing his own divine powers, a problem I hadn't even thought of and which needed to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Her husband Simon was a great help, too: meeting with another mortal enmeshed in this ridiculous world was a balm for my sanity, even just so I could get his opinion on unicorn meat futures!

Which is why it's especially concerning that she sent me a message on a ray of sunlight, begging me to come talk to my son.

I nearly crash my trusty old Mercedes into a tree in my haste to get to their villa.

When I get there, Anya is tearfully apologizing, her every sob spawning elaborate moths in the air that flutter away mournfully.

“I'm sorry please don't hate me I didn't mean it I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorr-” “WHAT HAPPENED?” I roar to the poor child, forgetting myself.

In an instant, Ushas is between us, a raised eyebrow promising retribution if I step once more out of line.

It's not hard to remember that she's just as fierce a mother as I am. Fiercer, in some ways, since she has so much more at her disposal.

“You are Forgiven Because you are Afraid. But you will Not be Forgiven Again.”

I take a deep breath. I'm not dealing with humans here, and I have to keep that in mind.

“What happened? I followed your message's advice and got here as soon as I could”.

She takes a deep sigh, then bends to whisper something into Anya's ear-nevermind that now that her daughter is eight she's taller than me- and sends her away so she can calm down, escorted by the swarm of moths.

“It was Inevitable, in the End. Your Son is of Divine Acumen, and Already Knew-but Only Now he has Faced It.”

Is she talking about...

“His Father's Irresponsible Conduct has Much Agitated him, and only his True Mother can Soothe him. Go, my Friend.”

It takes me a moment to play oracle and unpack her words. Tarit already knew his father never took an interest in raising him-it's obvious, since I'm a single mother and the concept is familiar to him. He also knows that this is not something to do with some magical law of the world-Ushas and Simon are happy and live together, and he basically spends half of his time with them nowadays.

I trudge to the guest room, and think of him. Physically, he looks eighteen, even if he's actually eight. Mentally, he's always been a precocious genius, with the wisdom and passion of a Messiah.

It's why I had so much trouble raising him before I had help; anything I taught him ran the risk of making him veer to far in one direction or the other, making him grow into a zealot or a hedonist.

I open the door to the guest room.

He turns to look at me, bolts leaking from his eyes.

“Mommy...I hate him. I'm going to kill him. I don't care than I'm a half-god and he's a full god, I-”

I hug him and bury his head in my chest, the way I did when he was still an infant. Then I start to calm him down, muttering words between nonsense and love.

Finally, when he's not shaking, I detach from him so we can speak.

“It's true. If your father were here, things would be much easier, for both of us. But I can't hate him.”

“He gave me the most precious thing in my life: you. Don't waste your life by becoming bitter over something you have no control over, but make things better.”

His eyes widen, and I see that he's absorbed the most important lesson I've ever taught him.

“I love you, mommy.”
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#1 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
The only word I can use here is "disjunct." The mother's perspective of her son here is all over the place. He's PhD, he's a child, he's a baby, he's an undergrad. I get this is "demigod" territory, but it the reading itself is difficult.

Going forward, The Capitalization problems Abound and I am Not sure what to Make of the word Selection used. There are traditional "holy" words to capitalize, but these are not them, and it feels off.

The ending, as I reach it, feels no better. Something happened, something the author wants us to feel is important, yet... it's lost in the confusion of all the previous passages. Eight-but-eighteen is an interesting concept, but not one that was delivered well, just stated.

I'm afraid this is comes across as only so much gibberish in the end. There are concepts, but I don't get any connection between them. Maybe that's what taking drugs feels like?
#2 · 2
· · >>Xepher >>Fenton
I'll come in on the opposite side as >>Xepher:

And call this another really nice first draft. I quite liked the mother's somewhat frazzled perspective, and I followed the narrative from beginning to end easily enough.

I could use maybe another paragraph or two somewhere with some more background info about how our narrator meet the god she trysted with, what he was the god of, how being in his presence made her feel, how it still tears her up inside to think about how her left her, that sort of thing. I'd also like to see a bit more of the friendship that develops between the narrator and Ushas: maybe a scene where Ushas warns the narrator how demigods often become fixated negatively when they have an absent divine parent. And as long as I'm asking for things, I'd like there to be more of a trigger for Tarit to begin raging against his father--the father's on the news or is intervening in mortal affairs somehow or something.

You've got the basics here: it just needs some expansion and some touch up.

#3 ·
>>Baal Bunny
In fairness, I gave this one a re-read. Knowing the conceit of the story from the start, it did make more sense this time around. I still find a lot of the exact "goings on" confusing, but the overall message, of raising a god-child to actually care about mortals and morality, is stronger once I caught onto it. Bumping up a few notches, though I still feel the style/structure may be (intentionally or not) embodying the "I take drugs" line it starts off with.
#4 ·
We've seen our share of stories that were rushed towards the end in order to submit them before the deadline. It's something known, and even if it plays its role when it comes down to ranking, I believe we tend to show some mercy.

However, the whole story feels rushed. I'll side with >>Baal Bunny, saying that this is a very nice and intriguing draft. But in the end, it is only a draft, and there are a lot of areas you could cover.

As mentionned, we could learn what was the relationship between the woman and the god. We could also see the woman and Ushas' interactions, instead of just having a sentence "we became friends". The same goes for Ushas' husband, Simon. He's mentionned in one sentence to never be mentionned again or even appear. There are some more, but I believe you get my point. See >>Baal Bunny for other suggestions.

Also, there are some sentences that I feel should be removed, like this one:
As a quant for a big name trading firm, I make a looooot of money. But, that means I also have a lot of responsibility, and that my job is very hard.

That's almost a pure statement for the reader "hello reader, here is my situation". Since the next sentences describe what her job consists in, we don't need to read that it's hard, but rather see how it is hard. And we see it with the faerie's laughter price. So drop the sentence I quoted, you better off without it, I believe.

Also, your first two sentences are kinda misleading in retrospect.
I only take drugs so that I can be a better mother.

As long as I remember that, it's okay.

With sentence slike these, I'm expecting the drugs to play a major role in the story. The second sentence especially implies that she is not really only taking drugs to be a better mother, and that there is another reason that will be revealed later. So when Ushas offers her help, and thus, the mother doesn't need to take drugs anymore, I'm surprised to not see the drugs reappear.

There are other minor problems (some of them are mostly a matter of taste), and even if it seems like I have a lot of reproachs to voice, I still enjoyed it, and it's because I see a great potential in this. All the bits are there.
So if by any chance you think what I said has any kind of value, I'm willing to offer my help if you want to rework it (find me on Discord with a PM). Or, you know, you can simply dismiss the rambling of a guy who doesn't know shit about writing (which is obvious when you look at his scoreboard), and who onlyy try to pretend he's not completely clueless.

PS: First half of my slate without a doubt