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One Shot · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Shot Through the Heart
“Target located. Line up your sights cadet. “

Cadet Flowers looked down the length of his rifle at a man sitting peacefully on a park bench. He had a newspaper unfurled across his lap that he was casually scratching on with a pencil between glances at the birds and trees that rustled around him. No lines of worry marked his face, no nervous tick disrupted his actions. He had no idea what was about to happen to him.

Flowers looked away from his rifle and back towards his commander, who was seated towards the front of the van with a pair of binoculars and a digital wind reader in hand. His dark suit contrasted starkly with his hair, which was nearly white save for the slight tint of red that stubbornly clung to what was left of his regulation length locks.

“I’m not sure this is right, sir. What did these people do to deserve this? Are they even-“

“Not our call cadet,” the officer said in his clipped manner, “The brass call the shots, we take them. No questions asked. Do you have your target?”

“Yes sir.”

“What are your adjustments?”

“Two clicks left to account for wind speed and one click for bullet drop.”

“Good. Concentrate on your target. The other teams are in position elsewhere in the city with their own marks. I don’t want you to be the only one to miss theirs.”

“Yes sir,” Flowers said, and turned back to the open van doors.

He had his rifle extended out the rear doors of the van and resting on the edge of the cement barrier that surrounded the parking garage they had set up in. It provided a perfect view of park below. Only a single pair of low buildings separated them from their target.

Flowers pressed his cheek up against the stock of his rifle and re-centered the crosshairs on the man’s chest. Spreading himself out more widely on the van floor, he centered himself and measured his breaths, waiting. Down below a woman in a crop top and running shorts was walking her dog towards the target.

A voice crackled over the radio and the officer spoke the affirmative.

There was a digital beep and then the officer’s voice started in a rehearsed speech. “Log start. Training session for the assessment of Cadet Flowers. Operation VD is greenlit. Date: Two dot One Four. Time: Two dot Three Six. Target in sight.” Then, in a more natural voice, “take the shot, cadet.”

Flowers took a breath, held it, and slowly pulled the trigger.

The rifle made a pop like a firecracker and pushed just a little into his shoulder. Through the scope he saw the little red projectile zip down just in front of the woman and strike the man just as he looked up. The man jerked upright, clutching his chest, and stared at the woman as she walked by.

Slowly his hand fell away to reveal a little red heart stuck to his chest, beating furiously as it quickly evaporated into nothing. The man slowly rose to his feet and moved to catch up to the woman, dropping the newspaper absentmindedly in his haste.

The officer’s voice rose up behind him “Strike team C12. Operation success. Returning to base.” It was answered by a garbled reply from the radio and another digital beep.

Flowers kept his eye trained though the scope, watching as the newspaper drifted to the ground and, with a small gust of wind, landed face up. The title was decorated with red ink and a pair of heart shaped arrows.
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#1 ·
· · >>MrExtra
This is kind of cute, and the ending works well with the protagonist's name and explains a lot of the odd aspects of the story. This has a nice enough twist to it, and does a good job of tricking the reader.

I'm not sure what brought up the cupid-in-training's doubts, but apart from that, this did a good job of subverting my expectaitons.
#2 ·
· · >>MrExtra
at a man sitting peacefully on a park bench

As opposed to sitting violently on a park bench?

Just about every other story has this same intro, lead up, twist, silly subversion format, but only your story has a psycho squad of cupid copters precision rocket striking romance at love-lost losers on a suburban sidewalk. Flip this whole thing upside down. Don't wait until the very end of the story to reveal the one thing that makes your story different from all the others. You've just just scratched the surface of a weird world of long range tacticool pick up lines, surely there's another story that can be told here aside from just a single twist of expectation.
#3 · 3
· · >>MrExtra
I think I'm with Dubs on this. Embrace the concept early and spend 750 words running wild with it.

But still, top of my slate so far.
#4 ·
· · >>MrExtra
Cute and solid prose.

Your quotation structure is a little inconsistent on how capitals function with how dialogue splits work.

Problematically I'd been trained to look for the twist here because I was aware this twist existed, which kinda made it waiting for the shoe to drop. I think, as the others say, using this concept and writing a story around it, rather than making the whole story the twist, would've been a bit more compelling, I think?
#5 ·
· · >>MrExtra
Hmmm, if anything, I think the twist here is given away too early. Even if I wasn't already looking for it thanks to comments on other entries, "Cadet Flowers" is a pretty big tip of the hand. Then the white and red color callout in the next paragraph should be enough confirm it to any reader looking for twists. And, as our Overlord points out, everyone should be on MAXIMUM TWIST GUARD in Writeoff because they're so overwhelmingly common. (I actually want to start taking off mental points just for using that format and relying on a twist, but then it sinks like 50% of the field... I should come back after reading everything and count just how many there are, hm.)

Anyway! All that is to say that I agree with the others. The writing here seems strong enough that it shouldn't have to rely on the twist. Put it up front and spend more time on jokes and running with your concepts instead of trying to hide them. As is, it's cute, but spends so much time hiding that I feel like it doesn't get to go anywhere with the premise. Somewhere in the middle pack, probably a bit above average? Thanks for writing!
#6 ·
Addendum: after finishing the field and counting them up, giving half credit for twists that weren't too central, I count... 16 shocking twists out of the 32 entries. Wow. I actually thought I was exaggerating and it would be fewer. Oh, and to make this post not completely unrelated to this story, it did indeed make comfortably above average when all was said and done.
#7 · 1
· · >>MrExtra

Second cupid story, somewhat different, somewhat similar. KwirkyJ read this one to me in the chat the other day, which was neat. That line with all the numbers in it does not read well to me in text; usually, anything three digits or longer should be done in numerals. I wish I had a better idea of why Flowers was so worked up about this; surely he knows what he's doing, right? Why the sudden misgivings? Has he been press-ganged? Is this black-market cupidry? His characterization seems odd, looking back after the twist.
#8 · 3
Thanks everyone for your comments, I really appreciate it! Now for that thing I've been waiting to do for the past week...

>>TitaniumDragon My original Idea for the cadet's inner conflict was that he went through a bad breakup or something and was bitter about some people being given 'true love' on a silver platter when he had to work so hard and suffer for it. I would have liked to put it in there, but I didn't want to show my hand too early.

As opposed to sitting violently on a park bench?

That sounds like a wonderful prompt. It sounds like a silly world where people's emotions depend on their body posture: neutral standing, depressively lounging, joyfully crouching, violently sitting. All this leads to a social obsession with remaining vertical at all times, and really sore feet.

>>Cold in Gardez I think the reason I didn't run with the concept from the get-go is because I wanted to play it straight, and I thought that the concept would end up being a little too ridiculous to do that with if I started with "Hey! Cupid's got a rifle and he's passing out love~!"

>>AndrewRogue I am curious what you mean by that. I don't know, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it, so if you might be able to explain it to me I would appreciate.

Yes, playing it straight would have allowed me to tell the deeper story but I wasn't sure how to do that.

>>Ranmilia Heh. Really? Flowers gave it away? I'll admit that the name is almost pony-esq in the way it works, but I didn't think THAT would give away the identity of my shooters. Flowers was something of an obscure reference to Captain Flowers from RVB. I didn't want to give him a name like Johnson, normal names wouldn't work for my trainee as he doled out love-based fates, and Flowers just fit so well I kept it.

>>Not_A_Hat That song was the ENTIRE reason for the title. Was sitting there thinking "Finished, now what to call it..?" and the drum beat starts in my head. *DUM* *DUM* Shot through the heart, and you're too late. Baby you give love, a bad name.

The numbers were an attempt to drop more hints but obfuscate what was going on and not let it be too obvious, thus the spelling out rather than putting 2.14 on the page. Originally my plan was for the newspaper at the end to land at the date Feb 14, but that felt WAY too ham handed to me. This was my attempt to hide the plot while allowing for people to have the ah-ha and see the flags that I dropped if they went back and read it a second time.

Thank you again for all the comments, I really didn't expect to place this high in the rankings and it was a wonderful surprise!