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One Shot · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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It's Going To Be Fine
Her eyes fluttered open, and she groaned. Dark, musty air stung her eyes and made her fight the urge to cough. Shaking and soaking wet, she pushed herself to her knees. Her vision adjusted to the darkness, revealing walls and a ceiling made of rubble. She squinted, sifting through her dizzied thoughts to remember what happened. She remembered the officer running into her classroom as the siren sounded, her student's panic as she tried to lead them to the school shelter, her and the officer sprinting to help when a student had fallen...

Her breath caught. She struggled to speak, her voice lost in the sound of the rain drumming over the rubble above. She took a deeper breath, ignoring the burning in her lungs.


Everything was silent for an agonizing moment. Her breathing accelerated, and she swallowed a lump in her throat.

"Max?" She tried again.

"M-Mrs Morrison?"

Her head whipped around, her eyes scanning the rubble to her right. Finally, she caught a glimpse of movement. She tried to pull herself to her feet, instead clamping her jaws over a hiss of pain. She glanced back at her left foot and immediately regretted it. She shut her eyes, breathing as evenly as she could. When she opened them again, she could make out the wide eyes and dropped jaw of her student as he stared behind her.

"Mrs Morrison?" Max whimpered again, his tearing eyes glued to the blood mixing with the water around his teacher's leg. She took a stabilizing breath, reaching out and pulling Max into a hug.

"Max, it's okay." She said. "Shhh, it's okay. It's going to be fine." She felt Max nodding against her shoulder. She released him from her embrace, giving him a quick smile. She looked around the small gap in the rubble that they were in. She shuffled forwards on her knees, shivering as the deepening water splashed against her thighs. Her hands traced the ground, running over chunks of rock and twisted strips of metal before hitting a warm, soft obstacle. The water sloshed as she flung herself backwards, her breathing rapid as the officer's lifeless eyes stared up at her.

"Max, stay over there," She commanded, "stay over there and don't look, okay? Please. It's going to be fine." She heard Max's sniffling "uh-huh," and forced herself to look back over the officer's body. She searched it with trembling hands, praying for a radio or a flare or-

A gun. She snatched it off his chest before the water could reach it. She looked around desperately, finally seeing a clip floating in the water beside her. Her heart dropped into her stomach. Only one bullet remained.

The water dripped down her shoulders, lapping at her waist as she stared at the gun. She loaded the clip and shoved it into her shirt before turning around to give Max another trembling smile.

"Max, I need you to help me." She said. "We have to yell for help. Can you do that for me?" When Max nodded jerkily, she put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. "It's going to be okay, don't worry. It's going to be fine."

They yelled and screamed and shouted. The water lapped at their stomachs. She panted, eyes wide, lips trembling.

"It's going to be fine." She whispered, holding Max close. The rubble groaned. Max sobbed. The gun sat cold against her chest.

Her hands scrabbled against the ceiling. The water swirled at her ribs.

She was going to drown. She'd heard it was agony. Max sputtered, treading water.

The gun felt so heavy in her hands. Her words felt as far away as the sound of the gun cocking.

The barrel was so cold against her head. Her eyes locked onto Max's terrified gaze. The water would cover him any moment.

The barrel left her temple. The water lapped at her chin. Max's head dipped under the surface. "It's g-going to be fine."

The shot was so loud.

The gun sank out of her hands. She tilted her head to reach the last bit of air, her frenzied breaths sucking in dust and water. She closed her eyes.

Light suddenly shone through the water and rough hands grabbed her, dragging her out.

"I knew I heard something!" A voice close to her cried. She heard a grunt in affirmation, and she felt a blanket wrap around her shoulders.

"Ma'am, it's okay. You're going to be okay.

"It's going to be fine."
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#1 · 2
· · >>TitaniumDragon >>shinygiratinaz
Last time around I percolated everything, tried to write huge comments and ran out of time and wound up posting nothing. This time I'm going to try something new: straight down the line, all 32 (hopefully) and briefer "first hot take" type comments, at least to begin with.

So this is a... disaster movie type scenario? Bomb? Earthquake? Something? And then there's flooding, in what is apparently the worst designed school shelter of all time? An unfortunately high amount of my reading brain went into wondering exactly what was going on, when apparently I was supposed to just be absorbed in the atmosphere. I wish the intro gave me a little more concrete detail to go on.

I also wish it wasn't center aligned and simultaneously full of Subject Verbed Object sentence structures. These elements combined for me to make the opening difficult to process. Consider sticking to standard formatting conventions unless you have a definite reason to do otherwise. Center alignment has a cost, it makes the reader have to jump their eyes around to find line starts, and I'm not seeing anything particularly gained by its use here. Repeated sentence structures are both boring and add to the sense of confusion. Maybe the idea was to express confusion? In that case, mission accomplished, but maybe not the best of goals.

As to the meat of the story, it goes for evoking emotion, and does a serviceable job at it. I don't feel particularly connected to the characters, but I'm happy to see them rescued.

The devil is in the details here, though. I still can't get a good mental image of the situation, and the main chain of events seems implausible at best. How is there a partially spent magazine outside of its weapon, floating in water, and somehow not ruined by the water? And a generic schoolteacher knows how to assemble, load and operate a law enforcement firearm under such conditions? (Also she shoves the loaded gun into her shirt - why?!) And it works and she manages to not hit a rescue worker firing blind? My suspension of disbelief is vacationing somewhere in the next hemisphere by the time we're through.

But such is life in mini rounds, some balls get juggled and some get dropped. The focus here is on the emotional angle, and if I put aside the lack of supporting detail, the execution of the evocation is pretty okay. We do get a complete narrative arc as well, congrats on that. Falling short due to insufficient detail and implausible action is one of the better ways to fall, all told - there IS action there to critique, and probably less than half of mini entries actually manage a complete arc. Good hustle, guessing it'll land mid tier when all's said and done. Thanks for writing!
#2 · 1
· · >>Ranmilia >>shinygiratinaz
Ah, the Mist ending. I've always enjoyed it, and I liked it here as well. It is a pretty limited story, but it works okay. I think the biggest question I have is, as noted, the question of "why is there only one bullet in the gun?"

I mean, I get the meta answer, but it makes no sense in the context of the story.

I'll note that with a lot of semi-automatic pistols, they will have one round chambered independent of the magazine, so even if the gun is lacking its magazine, it might still have one bullet in it.

That being said, I think it is perhaps an unnecessary detail; maybe the gun just gets jerked out of her hand after she fires it (she probably has never used a gun before, after all) or maybe she's about to shoot herself when she gets grabbed and rescued.

As to the meat of the story, it goes for evoking emotion, and does a serviceable job at it. I don't feel particularly connected to the characters, but I'm happy to see them rescued.

They weren't rescued. SHE was rescued... after she shot the student in the head, a mercy kill to save him from drowning.
#3 · 1
· · >>Ranmilia >>Cold in Gardez
Wait, what? Really? I read it a couple times checking for that and didn't see that... I still kind of don't. There's nothing in the end actively pointing to her shooting Max, as opposed to just firing into the air out of desperation. I guess the rescuers don't mention him, and it gives a little more context to the lines about how painful she thinks drowning is.

Ugh. That is very unclear. If that IS the intention, and now that you point it out I guess it's more likely than not, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Disappointed, mostly. I thought this was a tension piece about "what can the characters do in this situation, how do they respond?" but in the end it was all setup for a psychodrama about a teacher shooting her student? Ehn.

(Warning: minirant/ramble on personal evaluation criteria below, not extremely on topic for this particular story)

I'm very much not a fan of the "shocking emotional gut punch!" style of entry. It's over-represented in Writeoff for my taste - sometimes a third to a half of the entire field. The emotional impact of such entries tends to come from the shocking thing that is written, rather than how it is written. So you get a formula that's easy to crank out for low effort: just have someone commit suicide, or kill some kids, or contemplate doing so, or something similarly shocking and controversial, toss in some high tension emotions and fill in the blank for "but why would anyone do such a thing" and boom. Entry done, and all but guaranteed to have a few readers gushing over how deep and "courageous" (read: edgy) it is and how it's a high pick on their slate... no matter the actual quality of the writing.

So when I see shocker subjects come out, my level of scrutiny and willingness to nitpick also goes way up. If you want to do something like that, you'd better do it really well, and not just be crutching on the inherent emotional responses to the subject matter.

Doesn't change a lot for this particular entry, though. Probably moves it down a few places, but mostly due to the lack of clarity. This still accomplishes the most important thing I'm looking for in mini rounds: the completion of a narrative arc, with a beginning, middle and end, climax, rising and falling action, all that good stuff, showing proficiency in the form by the ability to get that done within the word and time limits. Even if you have to use a shocker template to get there.
#4 ·
· · >>shinygiratinaz
Emotional piece and a solid one. Aside from the ending, I like it.

Even if the ending has already been discussed, I'll try to add a thing or two.

So, the two possible endings are wether the teacher shot her student or not.
If yes, I can't buy it. That's not something you do "out of nowhere" and there isn't enough room to develop that way of thinking for the teacher.
If no, and since the first possibility is out of the way (for me) then why not say it?
#5 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
It’s an interesting piece but as is still a bit sketchy. The first thing I banged my head on was how the rubble could be above them. What you try to evoke here is probably a crumbled room, but I can't see how a crumbled room would let them leeway enough to move. It's like they are trapped into a small chamber under the rubble, but it is not adequately described, so the whole setup sounded implausible to me.

Otherwise, I clearly get the teacher (mercy) shoots the pupil to avoid him the pain of suffocating/drowning, just before she’s rescued. Of course, we are also led to believe that the pupil could've been saved too, so the teacher is left with the guilt of killing him “for nothing”, probably what the last sentence refers to.

In all, a good entry. Tidy up some details (like, her foot is crushed, yeah? But she seems unable to raise anyway, due to space limitations, so what’s the point?) and this will definitely be bang-up.
#6 · 2
· · >>shinygiratinaz
I’m sorry to say I saw the twist coming, so it lacked much of the impact it might otherwise have had. The moment that the gun had only one bullet I immediately thought “it’s The Mist by Steven King”. From there things played out as expected. I think it would have been interesting to pull the double fake and explore the consequences her committing suicide and leaving the kid to drown. You could keep it exactly the same until the gun sinks out of sight, then hit us with the words "M-Mrs Morrison?" again. I guess you could still have him rescued at the last moment but that kinda cuts out all the delicious emotions.

That said the writing is pretty solid, although the style seems to lend itself more to longer form writing. The descriptions and backstory are rather detailed for a format where every word is like water in the desert. I was also pulled out a bit when I ran into things like her reliance on visual cues in an environment that I assume is pitch black or ignoring her bleeding leg after two seconds. I can’t help but feel that focusing on her other senses – touch, smell, hearing, pain, cold – might have been more potent in an area with restricted light.
#7 ·
· · >>georg >>shinygiratinaz

Yeah, she totally shot him. It was obvious from the line "Her heart dropped into her stomach. Only one bullet remained." The same ending The Mist used.

Question: how exactly are they seeing anything in the darkness?
#8 ·
· · >>shinygiratinaz
>>Cold in Gardez Yeah, second question. How does an automatic pistol magazine with one round in it *float*

(Yes, it's a magazine, not a clip. And I'm a pedant.)
#9 ·
· · >>shinygiratinaz
Center align is bad. :p

Anyhow. Mist ending has a bit of a problem in that it's the sort of ending whose value really came from being fairly unusual if I remember right. Now that we can all basically look at it and go "Mist ending," the effect is somewhat diluted. (For reference, this ending is technically somewhat different from the Mist, it's just shaped the same). Basically it is a shock ending (which this is, as that's where the story ends) loses impact because the trope smasher already exists in public consciousness.

There's also a little bit of trouble really picturing the peril they are in as I can't quite work out what the disaster is here and how they are trapped.

That said, this is a neat little disaster story and does an excellent job of being a fully self contained narrative and does good work giving us some real human emotion alongside action.
#10 ·
· · >>shinygiratinaz
That center align looks like a mistake to me. If it's not, I have no idea what it's being used for.

This feels overwrought to me, sort of desperately melodramatic? That's much better than being boring, but the over-the-top-ness of the emotional grabs here have something of an offputting effect on me.

Also, I've heard that drowning is really quite peaceful, once you get over the panic bit. Maybe not as nice as freezing to death, but still.

I wish there was a clue as to what actually caused this collapse. My best guess is that there was some sort of bomb... possibly a terrorist attack, which could also explain the policeman and the gun? But if it's spelled out, I missed it, which left this somewhat shorn of context.
#11 · 3
· · >>TitaniumDragon
>>Cold in Gardez

Me, as this round began: I really hope people like this idea, it took me a while to think up and it's not the best executed but hopefully the idea will carry enough to... wait, what the heck is a "mist ending?"

So after executing a vigorous googling maneuver I discovered that the idea that I had thought up had not only already been done, but it had already been done by Steven King. Oy. :facehoof: Somehow I've actually gotten to this point in my life without having heard of The Mist, and legitimately wrote this thinking it was a semi-original twist on the idea of mercy-shooting. I suppose it's true what they say about nothing being original. :applejackunsure:

In the end, though, I was pleasantly surprised that this made it to finals. I hadn't really expected it to get far, mostly because I as an author wasn't satisfied with it. This story felt both lacking and wanting to me, and even after multiple editing passes I wasn't at all sure what needed to be added or taken away for it to work. After a lot of deliberation, I submitted this story anyways with the hope that people more experienced than I would review it and help me to learn what this story needed for it to actually work. And that's exactly what happened! So I'd like to thank everybody who commented talking about things I should change or things that they liked or anything at all, you've helped me out a lot. :twilightsmile:

I've always felt that my strength was in comedy, mostly dealing with more absurd situations, but I can't just coast in that safe zone forever. ...Well, I suppose I can, but I don't want to. I joined this website so that I could challenge myself and grow as an author, and while it's painful to submit something I'm not happy with, I'm not yet good enough to know the best strategies for writing different genres. But maybe one day I can be as good as horizon in Gardez and explosions Voice Hopefully next time I'll be able to submit a story that is more deserving of a finalist spot.
#12 · 1
So after executing a vigorous googling maneuver I discovered that the idea that I had thought up had not only already been done, but it had already been done by Steven King. Oy. :facehoof:

Credit where credit is due: The Mist (the original story) did NOT feature this ending. This ending is actually from the movie adaptation. Steven King later said that he preferred the movie's ending to his own, but it is actually from Frank Darabont.

I'm not actually sure if it was an original twist even then, but it is pretty infamous.

Anyway, I kind of figured it wasn't an intentional invocation of that idea, but was just sort of a congruent thing that happened to be similar.