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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Answering Machine
She enjoyed solitude, perhaps a little too much. Whether it was the soft silence of an empty house or the freedom of having no one else around, it was addictive. She couldn't, or wouldn't say when it started, and you could see in her eyes that you shouldn't ask.

Now, walking into her sitting room she paused in front of her blinking phone and sighed, and pressed a button.


*Beep. First unheard message*
Hey, it’s been a few weeks now and I haven’t heard anything from you. Mom’s getting all worried again. Can you at least give her a call? I miss you too you know..

*Message deleted. Next message*
Eva! The last chapter you submitted was perfect. Now will you please get me the rest of the book. I can only make so many excuses for you.

*Message deleted. Next message*
Will you stop ignoring my calls Evangeline? You can’t keep shutting everyone out like this-

*Message deleted. No new message. Play saved messages?*

Evangeline’s hand hovered briefly over the keypad before setting the phone back on it’s stand.

“I suppose I should get the rest of the book to Sarah…” She trailed off, looking over to the mess of research books and notes which lay scattered on the floor.

While the rest of the house was kept in impeccable order, the sitting room remained somewhat chaotic. The large windows filtered in light to show a maze of books, papers, half-finished drawings, and an impressive collection of pillows and blankets. All in front of an impressive fireplace which was crackling with golden flames.

“Though I suppose I’ll have to find it first.” A dimple showed as she laughed quietly to herself. “Which may take a few days.”

As slender hands rummaged through semi-organized papers the phone rang, echoing through the stone hallways.
She waited until stopped and watched for the telltale flash, letting her know she had an unheard message. Grimacing, she grabbed the phone.

*Beep. First unheard message*
Hello Miss List, this is Mark calling from Vanguard Insurance in regards to a payout. Please feel free to give us a call back at 262-445-7978. Thank you.

*Message deleted. No new messages. Play saved messages?*

She hesitated a moment longer this time before setting the phone down.

“The world calls out, but how can I answer? There are no words to say…” Her melancholy words were spoken with an actor's emphasis. “Hmm, that could make a good start to my final chapter.” She rushed to find a pen and paper.

Drawn from reality back to her work, she didn't notice the storm clouds rolling in until the first droplets hit the window. It was a pleasant, soothing sound, but it seemed to upset the young woman.
She drew a blanket around her and moved closer to the fire, staring at the phone.

After what seemed like hours, she finally walked back over to it.

*Beep. No new messages. Play saved messages?*

She pushed the button with trembling fingers.

*First saved message.*
Hey beautiful! I'm sure you're buried underneath a pile of paperwork, but guess what? I'm coming home. Don't wait up for me though. Love you.

*End of message. Next saved message.*
I just landed. The rain’s coming down pretty hard but I can't wait to see you!

*End of message. Next saved message.*
Hey.. I'm sorry sweetheart.. I-

*End of message. Next saved message.*
Hello, this is Officer Peterson from the Hamish County Sheriff's Office. If you could give us a call back at 262-274-3367. We have you down as an emergency contact for James List.

*End of saved messages.*

She sat on the floor, clutching the phone to her chest. “I'm sorry I didn't answer. I'm so sorry I never answered.”
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#1 · 2
· · >>TheRiverSings
I have to say this right off the bat. That ending line felt quite tacky and robbed me of the emotional investment I had in the story. I don't know why, but it feels so flat to me. It really feels like "this is the emotional payoff of the story".

I think it would've been much better if you had conveyed Eva's pain through her actions and body language, because right now it just feels unearned. Speaking of which, the reveal about Eva losing her partner came out of left field for me because up until that point there was nothing which hinted she was grieving. As I read I just thought "hermit writer, cool". I didn't think she was acting like that because of a loss.

If we had gotten to see how Eve felt beyond her just shutting herself from the rest of the world, then we could've gone "ah, so that's why" and that realisation would have brought her arc to a close. Right now, though, there's nothing to close, and the ending represents a blip in a radar followed by silence.

Nevertheless, even though the "character keeps voicemails from deceased significant other" is something I've seen a few times before, it was decently executed here, and it would have worked much better had the surrounding story showed us more about Eva.
#2 ·
· · >>Miller Minus >>TheRiverSings
There are several cosmetic mistakes, typos and missing blank lines. Nothing really ugly, but it points to a possibly un-proofread story.

So, she feels so guilty not to have answered the phone when her (presumably) late husband (presumably) died in an accident, so she shut herself completely from the world – or just refuses to pick up the phone? It is unclear. It is also unclear why you give us so many details: the book she writes, the fireplace, the shambolic sitting room, the thunderstorm outside… which at the end do not really matter to the story.

At the end, this leaves too many questions unanswered: why is she writing a book? Why is the sitting room in chaos? Why isn't she answering the phone and especially why does she decide at the end of the story to listen to the saved messages? What triggers that action? We don’t have the answers to those, and that makes difficult to connect with the character.

Also, last review. I’ve reviewed all stories, yay me! :)
#3 · 1
· · >>TheRiverSings
>>Monokeras
Mono, I love ya, but I just gotta stand up for the author a sec here.

So, she feels so guilty not to have answered the phone when her (presumably) late husband (presumably) died in an accident, so she shut herself completely from the world – or just refuses to pick up the phone? Can't it be both? It seems she's shut out her family and focuses only on work (as ineffective as she may be at it right now). Lots of people overwork themselves when they are grieving It is unclear. It is also unclear why you give us so many details: the book she writes She is a writer, the fireplace I see where you're coming from, but it's also part of the setting, and you might even infer she's successful since a fireplace is a luxury., the shambolic sitting room She's miserable and spending all her time in this room trying to work, the thunderstorm outside Setting… which at the end do not really matter to the story I'm picturing the story without these things and it now it takes place in a vacuum with a person and an answering machine and nothing else..


At the end, this leaves too many questions unanswered: why is she writing a book? she is a writer. Why is the sitting room in chaos? again, miserable writer who doesn't know what else to do Why isn't she answering the phone and especially why does she decide at the end of the story to listen to the saved messages? She is in terrible grief, and just wants to hear his voice again What triggers that action? I agree with that one. We don’t have the answers to those, and that makes difficult to connect with the character I can't argue with this—it's how you felt..


Aaaaand, just one other critique to add to the above: Why would she keep the police officer's message? That seemed left in for our sakes' only. Perhaps if his last message cut off in a more visceral way, we could infer it ourselves.

AAAAAAAND if it were up to me the story would have ended on: *End of saved messages.*

Thanks for writing and good luck!
#4 ·
· · >>TheRiverSings
Already three people have commented, and there isn't much left to say for me, except for my personnal reading.

I see some decent writing skills and a nice execution, but, I'm afraid to say that the ending, which I suppose was meant to be a big revelation, bringing light on the woman's behavior, unfortunately made me roll my eyes.
I have not only seen this coming from miles away, but it's also something very cliché, that I've seen too many times in fictions. Moreover, instead of using the proper tools of writing, I feel like you wrote it like a movie scene, which made it work even less for me.

As a character piece, this works quite well to start defining who the woman is, but as a story, and built like that, it feels too forced.
#5 ·
· · >>TheRiverSings
There's some narrative oddity right off the bat, where it simultaneously sounds like the narrator is and isn't aware of the audience. A few editing issues, too.

I'm getting a real mixed bag of characterization that's hard to reconcile. She's shutting out people who consider her important in their lives, so she comes across as an asshole or depressed, but then she acts very casually amused about the mess in her house and isn't explicitly angry at anyone, so I can't read her mood.

The narrator's also waffling between perspectives. It seems to be Eva's at first, but then it's very decidedly one external to her.

Well, that ending was fairly cliched. It was telegraphed by the insurance agent's call. But I don't even understand Eva's sentiment. Did she actually not answer the phone? I just took it as she wasn't there or was asleep when the call came in, but that's not what she's blaming herself for. Yet most answering machines play out loud, so if you hear it's someone you want to talk to, you can pick up the phone. I can't believe she wouldn't do that upon hearing the sheriff. Plus it doesn't fit with her earlier smirk if she's still this upset about things and feeling compelled to rehear the message.

I just think it doesn't strike a consistent tone, it's a rather common story concept without taking a new angle, and I don't fully understand how things transpired to know exactly what she's blaming herself for. Plus the ending paragraph was way too explain-y. We already got it.
#6 · 3
·
>>Zaid Val'Roa
>>Monokeras
>>Miller Minus
>>Fenton
>>Pascoite

Honestly, I am just really excited that I didn't come dead last.
Thank you all so much for your feedback and critiques. Just being able to go back after reading all of your input really gave me a lot of clarity, and I feel like I learned a lot.
Additionally, I definitely did not have enough time to proofread this as carefully as I wanted to, and I totally agree that the ending was unnecessary and a little cringey.