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They Stood Against the Sky · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
8 PM ( Rain )
I opened my eyes to darkness after a slumber I do not remember initiating. I could feel the dampness of fallen autumnal leaves beneath my hands as I made to stand, steadying myself against a rough tree. I attempted to call out but I could not speak, in fact I very quickly became aware of the fact that I could not breathe. But I was not choking or wanting for air so perhaps this did not alarm me as much as it should have.

With a hand remaining on the tree I brought the other to my face. I ran my fingers across my lips and nose, ensuring they were still there. It felt like a silly paranoid action until I touched the smooth concave divot where my eyes should have been.

There was a beating in my head, pure panic. I tried again to yell but no sound would leave my throat. I did not know where I was, I could not see I could not breathe but my eyes. Good lord my eyes were Gone.

I felt my knees give out and I slid back to the wet ground. Tremors shook my form, both hands now on my face. Eyes do not disappear, they can be removed but not in such a manner- not so quickly and without notice. I had had eyes just yesterday, hadn’t I?

This stopped me for a second. When was yesterday? What had I done? How did I come to be here? Did a moment of forgetfulness really matter in the current situation? Normally, presented with this scenario, I would have been crying grossly. But being as I was sans eyes this was both an abnormal situation and one in which I had no way to produce or expel tears.

I sat there on the ground pressing at the empty flesh for what felt an eternity. I hoped I could open my eyes this way, there was no possible explanation for them to be really be no more. After a while I no longer could feel the sensation of my own fingers rubbing against skin, it was numb entirely from repetition.

“You aren’t meant to be awake, child.” Came a warm voice finally, breaking the silence. I assumed I was only imagining this. Maybe this was a bad dream. “Return to your slumber.”

I shook my head at the voice, imaginary or not I didn’t wish to sleep.

“You don’t want to?” the voice sounded surprised. “Come now, you are safe. There is nothing to be sitting up worrying over.”

‘Other than my lack of vision and speech.’ I so desperately wanted to say. I continued to shake my head slowly, adding it to the motion I had already been doing. ‘I think there is plenty to be worrying about.’

There was a sigh and I felt a cold nose at my arm. Was it a dog?

“Forget whatever troubles you may think you have and lay down once more.”

In the leaves? In the mud? I wasn’t an animal. I focused and contorted my useless mouth into a frown.

“It is plenty comfortable I promise you at least- It will be. The rain cannot last forever.” It sounded like a parent trying to keep an even and polite tone but I could tell it was growing at least somewhat annoyed with me.


I pushed back off the ground and stood up against the tree, wobbly still but defiant. I was not going to sleep. I wanted answers even if I didn’t have the slightest idea where to get them.

I felt the brush of fur against what skin was exposed on my leg and moved away from it. Did this man bring his dog specifically to harass me?

“No no.”

Heavy paws pressed against my side and nearly knocked me over as the dog stood up against me. I frowned at it and in the general direction of the voice, pushing at the snout of the canine then as I held onto the trunk of the tree.

“This does not need to be complicated.” The voice huffed and I felt something catch the edge of the long sleeve of my shirt.

It was the dog’s teeth. It pulled down gently with slow tugging movements.

“It’s not safe for you to be awake.”

I pulled my arm back, half surprised it gave up so easily, and started wobbling away. My foot almost immediately hit a fallen branch and I threw my arms out to balance.

“I told you it isn’t safe. Please lay back down my child, I beg of you.” It’s voice was pleading.

I was stopped in my half walking by a soft but solid object that came up to my thighs. It was the dog, I concluded after reaching down. What an odd trick to teach a dog. I patted its back hoping to encourage it to move but it didn’t.

“I can’t in good faith leave you awake like this. But you will not return to sleep… What a dilemma.” The voice paused. “Tell me this-“

I tried to move again but the dog simply stepped in my way once more. What an annoying trick to teach a dog.

“Tell me this.” They repeated, “Do you know who you are?”

I thought for a moment. I suppose I had a vague notion. Everyone knows who they are, right?

I nodded. But wait, did I know…? my nod slowed.

“Do you know where you are?”

I shook my head quickly. Not the slightest clue.

“Do you know what has happened to you.” This last question felt heavier than the rest in it’s tone.

I shook my head No once more. Aside from the obvious who knows what had happened.

There was a sharp intake of breath.

“I will take you somewhere warmer to rest, somewhere dry, if that is what ails your mind.”

Take me somewhere? Having a guide would be helpful, and perhaps I could change his mind on the sleeping thing later.

I nodded.

“Remove your belt so I have a way to lead you.”

Couldn’t he just take my hand? This was strange enough day I supposed that was the least strange thing that had happened. Strangers in the woods with aggravating dogs asking me to take off bits of clothing. Sure, least strange next to everything else. I did as I was asked. My belt was thin and felt like plastic, it hadn’t seemed to serve much of a purpose in whatever ensemble I was wearing so I guessed it was solely fashionable.

I wasn’t sure how to hand it off to anyone so I lifted one end of it aloft for a few seconds. Before it was evidently taken and I was pulled in the opposite direction.

“Thank you.”

I didn’t know what to do so I shrugged to say no problem.

“There’s a log. Relatively small, take a big step and you should get over it.”

I heard a soft thump in front of me and the belt was taut, I guess he had jumped over. I shuffled my feet forward and, true to his word there seemed to be a log. I eased one leg up over it then swung the other over before I slid back to the ground on the other side.

“Hm… well maybe your legs are shorter than they look. I’ll get us to the footpath so there will be- big step.” He waited a second as I again shuffled forward. It was a small branch. I stepped over it with no problem and he continued. “There will be less obstacles.”

I gave a thumbs up with my free hand. He sighed.

I wondered what he looked like as we walked, aside from the occasional command he didn’t say much of anything. His dog’s tail hit my leg occasionally making me wonder too what it looked like. Maybe this man was some sort of rescuer. His dog hadn’t had the right fur type to be a Saint Bernard though. I could clearly picture a cartoon mountain dog with life saving reserves of brandy strapped in a barrel around its neck. Wouldn’t that be amusing, a big old snow dog traipsing around a wet musty forest.

I must have made some movement because made what sounded like a chuckle.

“I wonder why you are smiling. Did you only want for company, child?”

No. If I had been smiling I made sure to frown once more. Company was perhaps a little welcomed but was not the end all be all of what I wanted.

“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. I’m sorry you can feel embarrassment at all.”

What was that supposed to mean?

“Company is…nice once in a while.”

Why would he be sorry I could feel embarrassed? What did that have to do with him?

“Have you been awake long?”

I shook my head, brow still furrowed as I wondered now who he was.

“Ah… very good to hear. I can tell you are restless in this rain.”

Was it even raining?

At his suggestion I could feel it then, hitting the top of my head and shoulders. My clothing was soaked through. How hadn’t I noticed it before?

“I personally like these long dark days. Everyone stays home. The bees take a day off work, the birds rest in their nests and everyone seeks out warmth and calm. Like you. It was unfair you were left somewhere so open.” He sighed. “But I know many dislike the rain. It’s wet and cold and unfun for most.”

Yes, it was.

I was aware now of an aching in my feet. I wasn’t wearing shoes, was I? No… there was the feeling of grass and mud with every step. When did I lose my shoes?
“Ah, lean down.” He tugged the belt. “Further than that.”

I felt the air in front of me with my free hand and touched cold stone. I bent forward and went beneath the stone. We had gone into a cave, I guessed.

He kept forward a little ways before the belt loosened and I found myself walking into a stone wall.

“This should be plenty dry.” He said.

I wasn’t happy with the idea of a cave but it was better than being out in the wind. I settled onto the floor and leaned against the wall.

“My poor poor child… I do not think asking if you wish to sleep would do me any good would it.”

I shook my head and crossed my arms.

“No… of course not.” He sighed. “You said you knew who you were. How true is that.”

I didn’t know if I should let on I didn’t know. Why I was trusting him so much even I couldn’t think.

I raised my hands to form an X. I hadn’t been lying but…

“Ah. Well maybe you should lie down.”

Wait. Something was there. I waved my hand out.

I was nineteen. I had been going to the movies, wasn’t that it? Yes. I was going to see something with my friends. I tapped my temple.

“You do know?”

“Yes!” I shouted back.

Air rushed into my lungs and I gasped.

“Oh my god oh my god-“ I put my hands to my mouth, “I-I can- Oh my god.”

“Yes-… that. Is quite a development.”

“Who are you.” I said at once, “What happened to me, Where-“

“Slow down.”

I felt a weight on my lap. The dog had laid across me.

“Get your dog off me-“ I snapped.

“My- I am no ones dog.”

I again felt like crying.

“So… what are you.”

“A protector of anyone who wanders into my woods.”

“Protector? What do you mean?”

“It’s pretty self explanatory.”

“How do you protect.”

“I keep everyone from danger by making so they cannot feel it any longer.”

“O-Or…or see it?”


I wasn’t even angry. I was tired.

“This isn’t a way to live. Taking everything from people, making us sleep. You do that too don’t you. That isn’t living in the slightest.”

“It’s better than dying.”

“No. It isn’t.” I placed my hand on it’s neck, petting it with slow long strokes. I kept my voice gentle as it had earlier. “I thank you for bringing me somewhere out of the rain. I know you had your best intentions but if I may see again I want nothing more.”

“But if you leave me, child, you will die. The second you step from my woods anything could happen to you.”

“I know.”

He was silent for a while and I remained so too. We both needed time to think, to dwell on words and actions to be done.

“You came to me no more than 20 moons ago. You were lost and so afraid. I felt your presence enter my land but I could not find you. I took your sight from far away and had you rest. I could not risk anything horrible befalling you that I couldn’t fix. I only want you safe as I want everyone safe.”

“I must thank you once again for looking out for me but you are doing anyone you have save a disservice. Dying is only part of life, so much comes before it.”

“I’ve never had anyone ask me to let them go.” He said in a small voice.

“You haven’t ever given them a chance.”

“Yes… I suppose that is true. I can’t understand why anyone would wish to die.”

“It’s not the dying I’m advocating for. It’s the living. The messy wonderful living.”

He gave a sigh.

“Are you sure?”


I leaned forward and kissed the top of his head. I didn’t know what I was doing but surely this was the right thing to do.

“Very well. May the dangers of life avoid you until you are ready to rejoin me.”

I gave a wry chuckle.

“I’m sure they won’t.”

I found myself on the outskirts of town, dressed in muddy clothes and missing my shoes. I wasn’t sure how I had gotten there but- I looked up at the clear night sky, I was alive.
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#1 · 2
Fascinating. It's a very cool interpretation of the art-prompt. That is, you have your own ideas at play, and this isn't just a simple exercise in filling-in-the-blanks left behind by the work.

Your narrator's voice is sort of inconsistent—I'm seeing both jovial and horrified here, but horrified is probably the only one that makes sense. The voice also comes off as robotic at times throughout the story. Your first sentence, for instance, uses the word "initiating", which is a word used to describe computer programs, not so much sleeping. There's a lot of this type of language throughout the story, but it's especially apparent in that opening paragraph. If a 19-year-old were to say these sentences out loud to you, you would probably wonder why they're talking like that. I was aware now of an aching in my feet? I would have had an easier time getting immersed if there was more of the relaxed speaking habits found in the rest of the story, although as I mentioned before, it is bordering a little too much on jovial for the tone you're going for.

On to the story, though. I liked the descriptions of the missing eyes a lot, good old-fashioned spine-chilling stuff, but I felt like you could have dug a little deeper. Given us a texture, maybe, of what it felt like, or told us if it was sensitive or numb.

There is a lot going on here that isn't being explained. That happens a lot in horror (blood coming out the walls, e.g.), but in this story it's getting a little hand-wavey because the strange occurrences seem to be helping the protagonist and advancing the plot, as opposed to hampering them and convoluting it. Why did they wake up in the first place? Why did their speech return all of a sudden?

Another big unanswered question, which doesn't help the protagonist but still feels important, is, well, why is any of this happening? You don't necessarily have to answer this, but it feels like a missed opportunity to me. Why does this dog trap people here? Why did our protagonist specifically end up here? Is it something about their personal lives? A wish that they should have been more careful making? This kind of stuff adds explanation to your story while also helping to flesh out your protagonist, and it'll give you more foundation to work with. You can still go with the random option, but as it is now, the story comes off as somewhat cheap, and the conclusion unearned. At least it does to me.

Lastly, there are a few punctuation errors here and there which could do with some touch-ups.

But I'll leave you alone. I loved the idea but was left a little wanting on the execution, in the end. Good luck in the contest!
#2 ·
I really liked your interpretation of that particular picture! I was curious to see what kind of stories would come from it, and you didn't disappoint. The flow felt ungainly at times, and there were moments (specifically the final conversation between our hero and the guide) that felt like an example debate from a high school intro to philosophy book.With that said, I'm a sucker for strong vibe, and there's a very strong vibe here indeed.
#3 ·
I think if it's obvious to me as a reader that the dog's the one doing the talking, it should be obvious to the character. A lot of words and a lot of time are dedicated to the narrator not realizing the obvious, and it's frustrating to read. I'd suggest just cutting all reference to an "owner." The narrator never has any good reason for thinking there is an owner, and all the reason to think a dog-like beast is speaking to them.

Otherwise, I'm very intrigued, but not satisfied. That final conversation happens so quickly, and the dog gives in so easily. I'd be really interested in reading a revised version of this in which we get to hang out in that discussion longer.