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The Devil's in the Details · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Overnight in a Haunted House
Adjusting her glasses a little further out onto that long, long nose—seriously: how did she not have a sparrow or something perching on it?—Ms. Kladdaddle peered at the foot-tall stack of papers on the desk in front of her. "Your grandfather's will contains a series of extremely specific instructions."

The sigh seemed to well up from inside me like someone had dropped Mentos into my innermost reserves of Diet Coke. "Of course it does."

Ms. Kladdaddle's eyes flickered up, then back down. "He also left a summary." She took the top page like her thumb and forefinger were tweezers, and when she shook it, the paper made a wobbly noise more like plastic or cardboard or tin foil or something. "'Because,' and I'm quoting the first line here, 'that fool granddaughter of mine hasn't got the brains of a goose.'" She looked up completely this time, and I could tell by the set of her already hard-set jaw that she and Grandad had gotten along just fine.

Hell, they probably used to do it right here on this desk...

"Swell," I said, folding my arms and slumping back in the big dark-wood-and-blood-red-satin chair with clawed feet that he'd always had waiting for me whenever I stopped by—and by "whenever I stopped by," I mean "whenever he sent Leonid, his goon of a butler, to kick in the door of my bedroom, hose me down with chloroform, drag me from the apartment while Mom and Dad stood there smiling and waving, stuff me into the back of that old hearse of a town car for the hour-and-a-half drive out this big old mansion in the wilderness, and plop me into place for another of those little talks the old man so enjoyed."

You might say we had a special relationship, Grandad and me.

Not that "special" is the word I'd like to use here. I'd much rather use a different adjective, one beginning with "s," sure, and also containing two syllables. But my preferred word hisses that "s" into an "sh" and ends with two "t"s and a "y."

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to so much as think anything saltier than 'Hell' or 'damn' for more than a decade without wanting to wretch. I assume it's some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion Grandad implanted in me when I was nine or ten. Not that I remember him ever hypnotizing me, but, well, I wouldn't, would I?

The angora wool of Ms. Kladdaddle's faded gray cardigan seemed to bristle. "Would you like me to read the summary to you, Miss Armstrong?"

"Please," I said, not straightening my slump and deliberately unfocusing my gaze about a foot and a half to her left, the ragged cut of my dyed-black bangs hanging down over one eye just the way it was supposed to. "Oh, and call me Chloe. I can tell we're gonna be such good friends, after all."

I was a little disappointed when she didn't sniff haughtily, but her voice was frosty enough to make up for it. "'Because that fool granddaughter of mine hasn't got the brains of a goose,'" she said, and I'd never heard anyone relish so thoroughly repeating a causal clause, "'I'm leaving this simple summary spelling out what she needs to do to inherit the entirety of my estate: just over four hundred forty million dollars in cash, property, and investments.'"

Suffice it to say that I was sitting quite straight at that point, my gaze more focused than I'm pretty sure it had ever been before. "Whosee whatsit?" I said—or something equally sparkling and intelligent.

Ms. Kladdaddle smiled the way a hyena laughs. "'Spend the night,'" she continued, not looking away from the paper. '"That's all. Spend tonight alone in the house you despised, in the room you thought too stifling, in the bed you called an abomination to all the gods of style and taste, and Miss Clancy will return at breakfast tomorrow with all the appropriate paperwork. Otherwise, leave now and consider yourself disowned. 'Cause that's what you'll be.'"

Setting the paper down by itself on the desk, she looked up at me. "There's more in the will proper." She rested a hand on the tower of pages. "But I can assure you the gist of it is as your grandfather wrote. Spend tonight here alone, and you'll be his sole beneficiary. Leave before the sun comes up, and you get nothing."

"The sun doesn't come up," I whispered, Grandad's voice muttering the words in my head the way I'd heard them so many times. "The earth revolves."

Her eyebrows, though, came up. "A pity your grandfather isn't here. He always enjoyed being surprised." She slid open one of the desk drawers and took out another sheet of paper. "If you're willing to stay the night, sign here. If not, Daniel will drive you back to the city." Spinning the page, she pushed it across the desk toward me, a pen somehow appearing in her fingers. "It's entirely your choice, Miss Armstrong."

"Ms. Armstrong." I couldn't pull my gaze away from the paper, the words—typed, not printed out, I was completely sure, the straight-back Courier letters suddenly as foreign as hieroglyphics. "I mean, I've been calling you Ms. Kladdaddle this whole time. You could at least show me the same courtesy."

The only sound for a moment was the big weird clock that had always spread itself like a cat or a meatloaf over the mantelpiece of the cold, dark fireplace to my right. "Kladdaddle?" she asked after that moment had passed.

Apparently, I'd said that last thought out loud. "You should look into a name change." Reaching out, taking the pen, signing my name: I did all three more or less in that order. "Clancy makes you sound like a cop in some old black-and-white movie."

"Perhaps that's what I am." The page vanished into the inner pocket of her cardigan—do cardigans have inner pockets?—and from the same drawer that she'd taken the page from, she pulled out a ring of keys roughly the size and shape of a cannonball. "Most of the doors, you'll find, are already unlocked, but for any Daniel missed..." The keys clattered to the desk when she let them go in exactly the way I always imagined the chain on a ball and chain would clatter. Then she was standing. "Well, good night, Miss Armstrong—forgive me. Ms. Armstrong."

"Wait!" I wanted to leap up, grab her by the lapels, and shake her, but her cardigan definitely didn't have lapels. So I just tipped my head back and tried to find her eyes. "Is...is this real? I mean, it...it sounds like some weird movie or something!"

"Ah." Ms. Kladdaddle—seriously: who could look at that axe-faced mug and think her name was Clancy?

I'll tell you who! The same person who'd think Leonid's real name was Daniel! I mean, the way that guy slouches over a steering wheel has "Kremlin" written all over it!

So I reiterate. Ms. Kladdaddle poked the top sheet of the big stack. "You'll find your grandfather addresses that very question at the beginning of the will."

I blinked. "The question of why your name isn't Kladdaddle?"

She pursed her lips and poked the stack again.

Rising from the chair, I forced my reluctant eyes to look...and saw that the top sheet was arranged like a table of contents. The first line, Courier letters spelling out Is this real?, also contained a series of dots and then the number "1". Ms. Kladdaddle leafed through several pages with small Roman numerals at the bottom until she came to a page without a number. She took the dozen or so pages away, and I saw the words "Is this real?" on the page that was now on top.

Stiff as a rusty gate, I leaned forward and read: Yes, of course it's real, you nit! Have you ever known me to have any truck with fantasy?

My chest seemed to be getting tighter. "Is...is the whole thing like this?"

A throat cleared near my ear and startled my head into turning. Ms. Kladdaddle was holding the smaller stack of pages out to me. "I've got to be going, Ms. Armstrong. But I'll be back after dawn to see if you're still here." Her eyebrow quirked, something I'd read about but didn't think I'd ever seen till right then. "I take it you're not afraid of ghosts?"

"Ghosts?" I didn't want to hear Grandad's voice in my head again, but I did. I even recited the familiar words in unison and out loud. "We make our own ghosts when we're too stupid and too afraid to let go of people, places, ideas, or things that have already let go of us."

Which was exactly when it hit me. Grandad was dead.

And yes, he was a swine and braggart and a boor and a control freak and I really wished just then that I could use a couple of the regular nasty words people use when describing other people they don't much care for, but—

But Grandad always said those words were lazy and unimaginative, that they lacked any spark and showed their users to be unworthy of attention. "Make up your own swear words!" Grandad had thundered at me more than once from the other side of this very desk. "Confuse the krustos! Don't let 'em know what you're talking about!"

Which was exactly when it hit me that I'd been following his stupid advice for years now. Making up my own words was why I'd been doing the whole "Ms. Kladdaddle" thing. And the Leonid thing, too. And the sneering nicknames I'd given to jerks and jackwipes throughout my careers in grade school, middle school, high school, and the couple years I'd spent at university before dropping out and getting work answering phones at city hall while huddling the whole while behind the door of my bedroom at Mom and Dad's apartment.

"Damn it, Grandad," I pushed out through clenched teeth, and even then, I felt a little twinge that I hadn't said something more creative like "Fry your dentures, Grandad" or "Pluck your nose hairs like harp strings, Grandad."

Post-hypnotic suggestion. That was the only possible answer.

My ears perked to the echoing click the front door made all the way down the main hall from Grandad's office. Blinking, I saw that Ms. Kladdaddle had skedaddled, and I had to take a minute to congratulate myself on that bit of wordplay before I bent my knees and ran, my Skechers slap-slap-slapping on the hardwood floor out of the office, down the hall, and into the foyer, the ornately carved staircase on my left doubling back on itself to reach the second story, the front door closed on my right, the last light of evening shining red and green through the rose-and-ivy patterns of its surrounding windows.

I grabbed the doorknob, told my arm to twist and pull and fling the door open so I could stomp out onto the porch, pass the colonnades, storm down the steps and tell Ms. Kladdaddle what she could do with Grandad's—

Four hundred and forty million dollars.

I mean, seriously! That wasn't a real number! That would be more than a dollar for each and every person in the whole United States—I could've looked up the figures and calculated just how much, but of course there was no internet connection or cell service at Grandad's place: I've always been certain he had jammers set up around the corners of the estate...

The light was fading from the rose and ivy, the colors darkening to blacks and grays, and I was still standing there with one hand on the doorknob.

Because apparently I was staying.

"Why?" I wanted to shout, and since I was supposed to be alone here, I went ahead and actually did shout it. "Why do something so reckless and stupid and awful as leave all that money to me?"

The back of my neck prickled, and I turned to look down the hallway toward Grandad's office. A slow walk took me the way I'd just come, the one painting on the wall passing to my left, a seascape Gramma had painted years before even my dad was born, and I more slid than stepped into that room, that chair crouched in front of that desk, that stack of papers still and silent.

The smart thing, of course, would've been to sit down—maybe in Grandad's chair to, y'know, show my defiance or whatever—and read through the whole stack from top to bottom. But no one's ever accused me of being smart. So I tiptoed across the planks of the floor to the desk, peeked at the top page of the table of contents, and saw the answer to the question "Why?" was listed as being on page 2.

I took the top sheet off the big stack, and saw there in that square, block type: Why? Use your head, girl! You're my only child's only child. Who else am I to leave everything to? Someone whose life I've had no opportunity to shape correctly? Someone who may have been paying me lip service all these years in order to ingratiate themselves for exactly this occasion? Or someone who's so predictable that I've typed up responses to every possible action she could take during her stay here this evening? Someone whose every questionable thought and addlepated action I've observed since the moment of her birth?

And in case you're wondering, the next paragraph went on, I'm talking about you.

"Predictable?" I shouted at the stack of papers. "I'll show you predictable!" And I bunched up a fist to sweep the whole thing over onto the floor so I could dance around kicking the pages like someone back east would do with autumn leaves—we only have two seasons here in southern California, Grandad used to say: the season when the air's too smoggy to see the mountains and the season when it's not. And throughout them both, the leaves pretty much stay green.

Like at the front door, though, I found myself standing there with my arm in position to do something without actually doing it. I mean, yes, sure, I could've knocked it over like a baby tantruming up and down the seashore, stomping on sandcastles 'cause she's not coordinated enough to make one herself. But that's probably exactly what Grandad expected me to do...

So instead, I carefully lowered my hand to the top of the table of contents pile and found that the next item down was the question "Predictable?"

And on page 3 of the big stack, There's nothing wrong with being predictable, Chloe.

I blinked. I honestly couldn't remember the last time that sour old mummy had called me by my name...

Science is based on predictability. Commerce is based on predictability. Society and art and gardening and every human endeavor, I'd go so far as to say. Surprises can be wonderful, yes, but in the larger scheme of things, they're usually destructive, counter-productive, unpleasant, and unwanted.

If he'd been there, I would've started arguing with him at this point, would've brought up the surprise of penicillin, the surprise of the microwave oven, the surprise of love when you're not expecting it or looking for it.

Serendipity, of course, is a very different thing from surprise, the next typed paragraph began, as you well know, and I'll thank you not to conflate the two.

My throat had gone completely dry, the ticking of that big clock pile on the mantel seeming to tap at my head like a woodpecker.

A very regular and predictable woodpecker...

The only trouble with predictability arises when a person like you refuses to accept the truth that they are predictable. You confuse random flailing with serendipitous spontaneity, and you spread nothing but heartache and misery in a sodden, sticky cloud around you.

"Fine!" I shouted, smacking the desk with an open palm. "I'm the monster here! I'm the one manipulating people and forcing them to be whatever things I want them to be!"

Like calling somebody Ms. Kladdaddle, I could almost hear that wheezing baritone respond. Or likening Daniel to a Soviet knee-breaker when all he's ever done is drive you here and take you home. Or—

"Damn you!" I whirled away from the desk and clamped my hands over my ears. "Get outta my head! You're dead! You're dead!"

Yes. A lovely rhyme, and very rhythmic as well.

He wasn't there, of course, a part of me insisted as the rest of me ran down the hallway into the foyer, my elbows sticking out since I refused to uncover my ears. A dusky not quite darkness filled the whole place from wainscoting to chandelier, but that annoying little part reminded me that we make our own ghosts. I wasn't listening, though, my pell-mell flight sending me stumbling and crashing across the foyer and into the hallway opposite, doors on the walls that led to closets and a bathroom, the door up ahead opening into the kitchen.

Wrenching a set of fingers away from the side of my head, I smacked the push-button light switch on the kitchen wall and let my eyes rest on the gleaming white-and-chrome fixtures, counters, appliances, and—

"Meow?" something asked.

And by something, I mean a cat, of course. Seriously: what else says "meow"?

Not that that stopped me from leaping sideways into the wall and bashing my leg into the metal flip-open trash bin that was sitting there. I was maybe just a little bit jumpy right then.

The cat didn't vanish, though, I noticed as soon as I was capable of noticing anything other than the cymbal-crash-and-smash of my heart inside my ribcage. It just sat there in the middle of kitchen—it was a Siamese with that smooth, seal-colored fur, its pale blue eyes looking up at me the way all cats seem to: like it had just told me the most obvious thing in the world and I was too dumb to figure out what it meant.

I get that expression from more than cats, now that I think about it...

And while I'd never had a cat of my own—Mom's allergic—I knew enough to squat down and stretch a finger out toward it. I may even have said something in a high, squeaky voice along the lines of, "Hey, now! Who's a puss, puss, puss? Hmmm?" But you didn't hear that from me.

It practically jumped over to rub against my hand, the sudden softness making me catch my breath, its rumbling stream of meow-meow-meows driving the point home: it was feeding time, and I had the thumbs.

About thirty or forty seconds of frantic cupboard opening and closing followed, the cat keeping up its commentary the whole time, and even after I found the cans of cat food, I still had to find the can opener—no convenient pull tabs for Grandad, no sir! Fortunately, a line of six metal bowls, small and identical, sat along one wall, so I knew where to put the food. That there were a half dozen of them, however...

First things first. A knife from the third drawer I opened shoved stinky brown goo from inside the can—its label said "Ocean Whitefish," but I hope you'll forgive the pun if I say I harbored doubts—and the cat set in to chowing down before I'd even finished filling the first of the little bowls.

I couldn't remember if it was a bad idea to pet a cat while it was eating, so I just sat back on my calves, kneeling there in my dead grandfather's kitchen feeding a cat I hadn't even known he'd had.

Something wriggled in my peripheral vision, and I snapped me head over to see a black-and-white cat sitting there, again looking at me like I'd done something wrong. I quickly plopped another slice of goo into the second bowl along, and even though its expression made it clear I was continuing to make mistakes, it did sort of saunter over and settle in.

I got out of the way in case another four of them tried to rush me, but when no more appeared, I figured I had time for the various questions popping through my skull.

At least I knew where to look for answers.

Carrying the can of cat food—I hadn't meant to; I just didn't even notice I was still holding it till I was halfway across the foyer heading for Grandad's office—I marched straight up to his desk, set the can down, and saw "Cats?" listed on the table of contents.

A quick shuffle through the big stack, and I was reading: Yes, I have three cats: Baubles, Bangles, and Beans. Baubles is the Siamese molly you likely met first when she started informing you what you were doing wrong. Bangles is the tuxedo tom; he won't tell you what you're doing wrong, but you'll still know. Beans is a little tabby you won't see at all if you crash around here as much as you always seem to. And yes, I know her name should be "Beads" to fit the pattern established by the other two names, but I'm predictable that way. Aren't I?

I stared at the page. Grandad had cats. Or I guess it'd be more accurate to use the pluperfect: Grandad had had cats.

Now? I had cats.

In fact, the next paragraph began, let me tell you how these three came into my life.

I set the smaller stack of paper on top of the larger, put the can of cat food on top of that, grabbed the whole thing, and practically skipped back into the kitchen, the two cats still noshing away. A sudden thought made me put the pages down on the counter so I could pour some water into bowls number four, five, and six, then I reassumed my burden and headed for the doorway beside the giant, stainless-steel refrigerator.

It led into the back parlor—the door did, I mean, not the refrigerator—a sort of dining room/living room area that I'd only seen three or four times in all the years Grandad had been shanghaiing me.

Not that he actually ever really shanghaied me, I think it's become abundantly clear by now. But I figured out pretty early that the only reason Mom and Dad were so happy whenever Leonid—and fine, yes, his name is Daniel, all right?—whenever Leonid showed up to take me off to Grandad's big house was precisely because Grandad had a big house. I may have barely been in grade school, but even then, I could smell greed when it was stinking up the place.

But leaving aside the question of who exactly had or hadn't shanghaied whom, I found the parlor's light switch with my elbow and moved in looking for what I vaguely recalled was there: a table with a few chairs as plain and straight-backed as Courier letters pulled around it, and a large, overstuffed armchair with a coffee table in front of it and a floor lamp beside it.

The stack of pages went onto the coffee table, the floor lamp went on, and I settled in to read Grandad's account of how he'd acquired three cats.

And that's where Ms. Kladdaddle found me the next morning: curled up in Grandad's easy chair, dried drool connecting my chin to my shoulder. For the briefest of instants after blinking awake to the rumbling roll of her clearing her throat, I saw the tiniest wisp of a tabby cat nestled between my jean-covered thigh and the arm of the chair, but as soon as I stirred, it had flashed away past Ms. Kladdaddle and out into the kitchen.

"Well, now," Ms. Kladdaddle said, folding her arms. "That's only the second time I've ever seen Beans. I was starting to think your grandfather was making her up."

"Him?" I sat up, stretched, looked over to see that the can of cat food on the coffee table beside the two roughly equal stacks of pages had been licked completely clean. "Grandad didn't have any truck with fantasy." The morning light streaming in through the beige curtains covering the window made me sigh. "So go ahead. Tell me I didn't fulfill the terms of the will because I didn't sleep in that disaster of a bedroom upstairs. I mean, seriously! Four hundred and forty million dollars, and he couldn't hire someone with taste to decorate the place?"

She shook her head, her smile almost as fleeting as the little tabby cat. "You sound just like him."

Part of me wanted to jump up and smack her in the mouth, but the rest of me wanted to be less predictable than that. "That's 'cause we're both lemtucular bosphenes," I said. "He'd been slowly turning me into one, and last night, his ghost gave me the last little push the rest of the way."

Her hands clutched at each other above her chest. "Then...he is haunting the place?"

I completely revoked my thought from yesterday about her and Grandad doing it on his desk. "Have you ever heard the word 'metaphor' before?"

Lips tightening, she turned to head back for the kitchen. "I've some papers for you to sign, Ms. Armstrong. Then everything your grandfather worked his entire life for will be yours."

Following her, I wondered if I would ever finish reading Grandad's last will and testament. Probably. I'm pretty predictable that way. "We'll put ten million into a plain old savings account," I said. "I can live off the interest on that even at the rock-bottom rates the banks are paying, and the rest can go toward environmental clean-up, medical research, arts and science education, that sort of thing."

Ms. Kladdaddle turned, her eyes wide.

I smiled. "Surprise," I said.
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#1 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Okay, so I really, really like this story's message and how it's presented. For me, when I was done with my first reading, this basically hit that absolute sweet spot of the themes being just clear enough for me to feel satisfied, but not so obviously overt that I could easily sum it up when I was done. I had to think about what I just absorbed, and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. So, huge kudos to the way you managed your message.

Now in terms of critique, I think there is a bit of unevenness when it comes to the narration. When our main character doesn't have anyone or anything to bounce off of and she's kind of talking directly at the reader, it has a tendency to start feeling a little meandering. A lot of these kinds of passages reveal also information that's very important to the themes you're trying to convey, so the fact that they feel a bit skimmable is an issue.

Honestly though, I think that's pretty much the only qualm I had with this. I'll just endcap by saying that this is one of my favorites from this round, so thank you very much for submitting it!
#2 · 2
· · >>Baal Bunny
A cute and energetic character driven story that I don't think quite manages to end successfully. I had an extended discussion with Bachi on this in chat, and, having slept on it... I still feel the same way. I think the ending idea is fine, but I think the actual application here feels a bit lacking in terms of Chloe's self realization. I can sort of see his argument about serendipity vs surprise, but I feel that is undercut a bit by her still using Kladdadle, since that is literally one of the things her grandpa calls her out on!

I guess what it is at a level is the question of what she was going to do with the money was never really hovering in the air in such a way that ending on that particular beat doesn't really feel like it closes out the story. Like, strictly speaking, the "I'm pretty predictable that way" line is the better out since it is the one that really solidifies her acceptance who she is, whereas the "Surprise" instead comes off as a bit smug and self-congratulatory - basically who she was throughout the rest of the story.

Speaking of, her voice is pretty well realized and plays well to her character, but do be careful about this particular kind of narrative voice as constantly being clever/punchy can get a little tiresome/feel a little tryhard. Give a little more space to breathe between clever turns of phrase!

Still, this was a really fun and enjoyable read.
#3 ·
This sort of piece:

Really rises and falls on the narrative voice. Everything we get comes through her, and she demonstrates several times that she's more than happy to lie to us, so that works nicely. I'd recommend making her even more unreliable, though. Maybe she lies to us about her current situation, and it's the grandfather who lets us know that she's working a menial job and still living with her parents. I was also a little unsure about the triangle going on here with "predictable," "surprise," and "serendipity" at its corners. If "surprise" is the bad one, why does Chloe come down squarely on it the end?

Still, a lot of fun.

#4 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
The character voice in this piece is phenomenal, and makes for an entertaining read throughout. I do think that her grandfather's will creates a decent something for her to bounce off of and maintain some of the good comedy that's first created with Kladdadle, but for mentioning that we "make our own ghosts," there isn't really much of that in the story. It might be just my reading, but it does feel like she starts to see that she misses him in a way, so some bits when she's alone of her imagining that some spirit is in the house, and might be him, could work. It could possibly play up to the reveal of if Beans is real or not, too.
#5 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
I think this was a story that needed a bit of rereading for me to fully appreciate. Maybe that was the fault of many of the other stories having big impact moments. I don't know. I did come to appreciate this though, and I also appreciate that this is one of the stories most grounded in reality.

First off, the writing style is really nice. The character personalities were built very well, and I found parts of both the grandfather and Chloe that I really liked (for ex: the creative swearing and the randomly flailing around). As a cat person, I also really enjoyed her interaction with the cats, and I think it added to the coziness of the whole thing. Finally, I enjoyed the transition from the beginning to the middle of the story. I went into the story expecting another horror entry (I read Ripping Up and Phage right before this) and came out with something much more pleasant.

With that being said, my only slight issue with the story is that I'm still a little bit confused at the conclusion. The story slightly meanders, and I was surprised at how quickly it died down. After the author reveal, I would appreciate a little bit of insight as to what the moral of the story is.

All in all, a top tier contender. Thanks for entering, anon; this is good stuff!
#6 · 2

Thanks, folks:

And congrats to our other medalists!

This round nearly did me in. My immediate idea Thursday morning upon seeing the prompt was to do a romance story between two people with obsessive-compulsive disorder--they'd be so caught up in the little details of their lives, they'd nearly miss the biggest thing ever to happen to them.

By Friday night, though, I had over 4,000 words, and the two characters hadn't even met yet. I was alternating 3rd person POV sections between the two, and since they were both so detail-oriented, I was writing the whole thing in a very detailed fashion. It just wasn't gonna come together, I became convinced, so I saved it into my scraps folder and started something else.

This time, it was gonna be a fantasy about two characters out on a quest to break the curse that's been cast on one of them, but as they go along, they would discover that the curse was something completely different than what they thought. But this one also kept expanding as I wrote, and by Saturday night, I realized there was no way to make it work in under 8,000 word, either.

So this story here came gushing out over Sunday and Monday. I still need to sit down with it and think about the ending with Chloe realizing that she wants to be predictably unpredictable and embrace serendipity instead of surprise like her grandfather, but unfortunately, since the story's not SF or fantasy, I wouldn't know where to submit it once I got it finished...