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Time Heals Most Wounds · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
Jeremia's flaming skull cackled as he grabbed the little heap of memories. The newcomer shivered and stared down on the miserable pile of chips in front of him.

I wasn't impressed by the performance, I had seen worse out in the sobbing wasteland of Tenochtitlan. The newcomer on the other hand was nervous and could barely keep himself together.

Jeremia grabbed one of the chips he had won and bit down on it. "Hmmm, a happy wedding. Not many of those. You have the most delicious memories." He spat it out again and held it up. "Lemme help you, mister. I'll bet all your memories and throw in some happy childhood I won a few months ago if you bet the rest of your stuff."

The newcomer shivered and I could almost read his thoughts. No memories meant losing himself, but missing half of them could be worse. You kept a ragged sense of self and longed for an ineffable something. That led to madness, and the plains around Las Vegas were proof of that.

The newcomer nodded.

Jeremia looked at me and said, "And you, lady? Are you game?"

I closed my eyes and gathered a couple of unimportant memories, like the name of the newcomer. I condensed them into chips and dropped them on the table sealing my place in the Game.

"Good." Jeremia laughed. I had to restrain myself from jumping at his throat.

We pushed our heaps in the middle of the table. The gray light of the afternoon shined in the bar through the dirty glass. The shadows of the living moved around indistinct and distant. We stared down at our pieces.

The Game was old, older than anyone I ever met. And yet its symbols, the woolly elephant, the spear, the human sacrifice, each one spoke to me.

The light of the day had waned, the bar was full yet nobody came near our corner. They probably could feel Jeremia.

We laid our hands down. Little phantoms marched over the table and fought, hunted, loved and died. At the end only Jeremia stood triumphant.

The newcomer squirmed, then his eyes became unfocused, his expression void. His skin dissolved in thin threads of smoke. And then there was nothing there anymore.

Jeremia looked at me, the flaming skull disappeared and a leathery face with a wild beard took its place. I clenched my fists. He smiled. It became more difficult for me to stay calm.

"Now that we are alone, I think I can drop that stupid masquerade. I knew you never fell for it. Shall we play a last hand?"

I closed my eyes and dug deep into myself. I gathered all the memories I had kept for such an occasion. From my hands chips began to spill on the table.

As I looked at him again I could see the doubt. At the end greed won.

We arranged our pieces, the sun rose, then set and rose once more. We laid our hands down and the farce that is humanity played out on the table.

Jeremia won.

He laughed, there was exhilaration and joy and meanness in his voice. He grabbed his winnings and then stopped. He sat there paralyzed with his eyes wide open as the memories streamed into him.

I'd like to think that little Mary's terror as he broke into our home was the first one to hit him. And that the desperation of mom was the one immediately
after that.

As he was overwhelmed by all the suffering he had caused to dozens of innocents before they had hanged him and that I had gathered, I dug out the other cache I had kept for this special moment. I shaped memories into an apple, jumped over the table and drove it into his open mouth. "Choke" was all I ever said to him.

I had to be careful as I collected the memories of all those deaths. But, one at a time, I had managed to keep them in me. Absorbing them all at once was too much. He screamed and even the shadows of the living shuddered.

Jeremia Goodwill is no more. He is no more in the most complete way possible.

Now leave this chip here, leave, and never turn back.

I put the note down and looked at the chip sitting in the middle of the table. I knew it had been mine, there was a part of me inside there.

And then I left.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
I think this story was good but hurt by the word count.

At the end, I felt like her moment was supposed to be triumphant or clever, but I feel like the rest was too short to build up to that moment, and so the end felt like it came and went at a fast clip. I don't fully understand the stakes (though I do in my head, I don't quite have a feel for them), I don't understand the game they were playing (other than it's something you bet on and Jeremia won), and I don't know what the significance of beating Jeremia and leaving that note are. I think you did a good job, though, of revealing the backstory as you did.

I feel like the writing skill is definitely there and the sense of pacing is there, but it might have a better impact if it was longer. A better impact on me, at least. Perhaps someone else thinks this is just the right length. I dunno. Just my opinion.


Side note, now every story has at least one review at this point! Woot :>
#2 · 2
· · >>Hagdal Hohensalza >>Orbiting_kettle
You paint an interesting world here, Writer. I like how you use abstraction and one-line references to prompt the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imagination, leading the story to feel more robust than it actually is. This is a good thing, especially considering the constraints of the competition. I particularly like how you handled The Game, spending only a handful of sentences on the generalities and none of the specifics - all that matters to the story is the wager, and that Jeremia won, which keeps the story focused.

Mechanically, there are a few things that can be shifted around to make the narrative a bit clearer. The first few lines of the story leave some ambiguity as to who the narrator is unimpressed by; you may want to shift the sentences regarding the newcomer together, and move up the narrator's disdain, so that it's clear that Jeremia is the target. Also, at the end of the story, if the two lines above the line break are supposed to be the note referenced immediately below the line break, then the note should be below the line break as well. You may want to consider italicizing the text of the note, or putting it in quotes, to further differentiate it from the rest of the story.

A quick note on attribution - the story starts with the phrase "Jeremia's flaming skull cackled". At first I thought the skull was a separate object in the possession of a person named Jeremia; it's only later on when Jeremia dispels the illusion that I realized he had been pulling a Ghost Rider up to that point. Consider rearranging the sentence so that it reads more like "Jeremia cackled, flames licking at his skull, as he...".

All told, Writer, this is a good premise for a story. This was a strong start to my slate.
#3 · 1
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Nitpick-ish: "the sobbing wasteland of Tenochtitlan" seems like a misstep as you're setting your story's scene. I'm not sure how the specifically Aztec reference connects, given that none of your other characters seem to draw names or archetypes from that mythology. Especially when you have a (demon?) named Jeremia and name-drop Las Vegas.

I like this in general. Nice details, like lampshading not naming the victim by having the narrator bet that memory. This works in enough context to make sense, if not necessarily to be satisfying, and that's a word-limit problem. Also hampered that way: the ending is abrupt and feels inelegant. But it does hang together as a complete story in the space, and the core idea is cool.

Tier: Strong
#4 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
It's a very good story, but it feels like it really needed some more words to be fully fleshed out. I feel like I don't really understand why or how most of this happened. But it was still an enjoyable read, so I think you did good.
#5 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Welcome to the playing grounds! So, what exactly is this place, you may ask? Why it’s a wonderful place, when you do make the most out of it.

Who am I? Who AM I?! Why I’m a friend, of course! A gentlemen looking to help any lost men and women on their way through this great opportunity!

Now, now! Let’s leave the questions for the end of the tour! Now picture this!

Imagine a world of ethereal fog that lights up every room and every breath. Where food nor drink is ever needed. No jobs or responsibilities to tie us down! Where every ghost, goul, and sinner can play freely. Play what exactly, you ask? Why, a special game of course!

Where the stakes are high and the good times can match it! Where one can prosper and be merry from just a simply partaking in a single round. Yes! You can have it that way too!

Though the only price to pay is, but yet a small piece of your former life. Not much is asked when a game is started. Your bad times and the good. Your first times and lasts. Your sins and deeds. All rattled about in your hand, all in the name of some good ole fun. We only ask that you be cautious. For what we like to play here is a bit of a gamble. For what do you offer to a gambling table in the afterlife besides what you brought with you to begin with?

In this place of solid purgatory we offer. “A chance.” The same as any other visitor may have. Now it all depends on you. Remain out of this game or take part?

Interesting choice.

You had best learn to win to survive. For if you were to lose your entire self being, neither the heavens nor the pits of hell can help you afterwards. If you really have no intentions of partaking in this luscious event, then just know that this place ends up consuming you just the same. There is no third option.

SO! What do you say? Shall we play a game of “Rrrreaping?”

Let me show you the basics.

The Game of Reaping
-By Remedial Fortuitous Heart

The idea you bring to the table itself is just wonderful! We got to follow along with three questionable characters that end up portraying somewhat of a godly role. A spectral sort of struggle that involves them following the rules of a certain game that ends up eating away at their very being. Hinted at how the losers seem to suffer by losing what their bargain with. Which ends up being memories and probably more to it judging by how certain words were used. Now as good as it was. The story was short and had only one scene. It also just ends up on the drop of a dime. No reason for the conflict other than someone else to take the winner’s place in this constant cycle of soul sucking.

The lesson behind this story is something simple. That life can be ended and that life itself we just have no control over. Things like luck and observation help us prosper and live the way we do. By learning through others mistakes and preparing for the disasters that may come our way. There’s a ton to learn and analyze here. Which makes this a must to reread and try to decipher what exactly the author’s thoughts, when they created this piece. It’s a much more mature twist of a story and ends up still being fit for a younger audience with how adventurous it was. The danger and spiritual style can be great for a younger crowd while the messages can hold the attention of a more adult mind. Again it drops on a dime and doesn’t really give us a result of what just happened or why it did. Was it for the greater good? Or did they just create another monster to steal more souls?

What is going on and why? What are they betting? And why is losing some memories resulting in a decaying death? My only thought is that this is Purgatory. The people here are merely ghosts clinging onto what they had last in their life before moving onto a higher plane or the lowest of the two domains. Since no belongings are brought into this dimension they bet to see who stays and who goes. Which raised the question of why the hell play and bet when you can just stay there? It was obvious once you written the phrase that others were avoiding Jeremeia due to how much of a game shark he was but if I had the choice I wouldn’t play at all and I would remain in purgatory. Eventually I would but the story never goes into that mental depth with its readers. It was a fun entertaining piece but just didn’t seem to have a lot of build to it.

What exactly happened? And did she need to cheat using the apple?! Just how did this end with him winning and not getting what we just witness. The ending threw away all my thoughts about the story and gave it the twist that this is just a spectral world and that the older ghosts. Are the kings and queens of the world. Literally feeding off of weaker souls. For what purpose though? You really don’t define your story well and it just makes me confused. Just what did she get overcoming this challenger? And who in the world was he to her? His wife? His daughter? Just what made him so hurt upon sucking up those memories? How did the apple work? It’s clearly not poison. Also just what was the point of all of this? The conflict would be easy to avoid. Unless there was more ways to suck someone whole. Which is never explained. A complex world that has no explanation to it. It really is a good idea.

So. This was a story. Beautiful in how much of an idea this was. It was mystical and had this sort of a fable feel to it. I love dark stories and this one just seemed to pop out with its own unique flair and style. As of right now this is setting the bar for others for me and I can’t seem to want to stop analyzing it. I wish there was more. It’s not your fault but this I really hope you don’t drop and instead make a good full story out of this. This can go on for chapters really. It would be highly interesting and definitely keep the good work up. From this perspective I think you have a thing for horror. You captured the classy dark essence that is a fable. So I want to see you go further and turn this into a jump scary tale. Something to get my spine all tingly. So please keep this in your shelf and make something more out of it.
#6 · 1
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Having looked it up, Jeremia is apparently the feminine form of the name Jeremiah, which made it seem a bit odd that it was given to a male character. It reminded me, strangely enough, of Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs, where the serial murderer Buffalo Bill's actual name was Jame Gumb, and he had been so named because his mother misspelled "James" on his birth certificate. I doubt this was an intentional reference, but it nonetheless feels appropriate for the character depicted here.

The idea of transmuting your memories into poker chips to wager in a game of chance is fascinating. So, too, are the glimpses of the fallen, magickal world we see surrounding our characters. That said, the story does definitely feel cramped by the word limit. What is shown here is very good, but there needs to be more, of both the world and how these characters fit into it. Still, the antagonist's fate being determined by the rules of the game he himself is a grand master at playing was finely poetic, as is the protagonist, having lost much of what made her what she was in that same game, simply walking back out into the world to try and rebuild what she has forsaken.

On the more mechanical side of things, I will second >>Icenrose's comment about italicizing the note at the end. It took me reading it a few times to recognize it for what it was, which could have been avoided if it had been in a different format than the rest of the story. I am not certain if the line break between "the one immediately" and "after that," towards the end, was an intentional stylization or a simple error. If the former, I believe it should be dropped, unless you also plan to apply that towards the rest of the story beyond that one paragraph. If the latter, then I guess the joke is on me for mentioning it.

Thank you, author, for writing this.
#7 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
*skips other reviews*

Well, this was strange.

A fascinating concept, mind you. I really like the way you describe the game.. Or rather, completely fail to describe the game, but still make it work. But I'm not sure exactly where and what this is supposed to be... The afterlife, clearly. But it this heaven? Or hell? Or just limbo? And if you're playing for memories... You lose yourself if you lose all your memories, and cease to be.. But doesn't that mean that if you win memories you become them, to some extent, and thus are changing and destroying yourself in the process?

Very strange. I'm not quite sure what to make of this one, but I still liked it. :)
#8 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Very nicely set mood and feeling, with a magic realism in Las Vegas that reminded me a lot of Last Call by Tim Powers. I was about to question how the narrator remembered the memories she'd just lost, but the bit at the end, about a note to herself was a brilliant way to explain that, and really tied things together nicely. Overall, a very strong story to me, though lacking a bit of polish here and there, with perhaps a few too many allegories.
#9 ·
· · >>Leo >>Orbiting_kettle
I didn't care for the ending bit. The story is much stronger without it, because you never develop the second-person character in any way at all. I suspect it was meant to personalize the story, but it didn't work.
#10 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
This contains some nice worldbuilding, as well a clever resolution. I like it.

The beginning could use a little more exposition. Not necessarily much but mentioning where the characters are would help, because as it is now that's only introduced 9 paragraphs in and until then they might as well sit outside the city in the dust.

On the same note of exposition, it's also not clear at first how the narrator feels about Jeremia. "I wasn't impressed" made it seem to me that they were acquaintances who play together often and the narrator is just annoyed by Jeremia showing off. You describe the stranger's reaction to him, but not the narrator's reaction until a few paragraphs later, which I think should come through from the start.

On the ending I agree with >>Trick_Question. It would be a strong last sentence to end on, and the extra just feels completely unnecessary.
#11 · 3
· · >>The_Letter_J
I will take most of your critiques to heart and try to improve this story. While I don't want to make it too long, another couple of hundred words will probably be a blessing for it.

So, this should have been a ghost story, in the sense that it is a story about dead people and about vengeance well beyond the grave. While I like to put some ambiguity in my stories, in this case that was a central point that should have explained why they were playing the Game and why memories were so important. Once you are dead you have only the memories of when you were alive, and so they become a finite and precious resource. I certainly need to make the nature of the characters clearer as currently it is only implied by the fact that Jeremia (a name I wrote wrong because brainfart and not because I'm subtle) was hanged.

I'm glad the haunting atmosphere came through, but I need really to put some of the things I cut out back in the story again. Among those, at leas a throw away line on how you can remain yourself even when you get memories from others, a little bit more about the origin of the Game, a bit of characterization for the narrator and her quest for vengeance and a bit of a description of the environment and the shadows of the living that surround them.

The ending wasn't satisfying, I agree with that. I will need to work in some stronger closure for the narrator. I will also need to add details tot the two set of memories she bet at the end and why she had to do that.

The siege of Tenochtitlan caused between 100.000 and 200.000 (source disagree, but 100.000 is the lower limit) deaths in 80 days and that's the reason I've chosen it as example of what would probably be a spiritual wasteland filled with suffering and regret. I may need to pick some other location which is emotionally nearer to current readers.

I'm glad you liked it so much, I will see to improve the final version and fix the weak points this one has.

Thanks for your comments and your time, I will try to learn from them.
>>Hagdal Hohensalza
#12 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Are you saying that all three characters were dead? Because if so, I completely missed that and thought that only Jeremia was dead.
#13 ·
That was the idea I missed to properly communicate.