#VSS365: Round Up (Oct ’19 – Feb ’20)

I’ve heard it said that accountability is a great catalyst for motivation. If you’re striving to achieve something, letting the people around you know what that something is can drive you to work harder towards it. It’s good advice, which is why in the past I’ve announced my intention to take part in various projects, like #VSS365 or NaNoWriMo – as a motivator to prevent me from shirking my responsibilities. Unfortunately, I am extremely unreliable (some might say lazy), and this process, as it turns out, does not work out very well for me. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I fell off the #VSS365 wagon after about three months. It’s a shame, because I still feel that it’s a great way to encourage yourself to write more widely and regularly, but what can you do – life, and laziness, have a tendency to knock these things out of you.

Having said that, while I haven’t been taking part as consistently as I’d like, I have put out the occasional bit of twitter microfiction since the end of September. For the sake of completion, I wanted to make sure all of these little stories were also available here on the site, so without further ado, allow me to present a baker’s dozen of tiny tales for you to enjoy. (Quick note: all stories are 280 characters or less, including space for the VSS365 hashtag, with the featured prompt word for the day indicated in bold. Some of these are sort-of sequels to previous #VSS365 stories I’ve written, which you can read here and here; one is told over two parts, and there’s another that uses three days’ worth of prompts at once. It’s fun to keep things varied. Yes, I know I said without further ado, it was a lie! You’ve been fooled!)

Having had quite enough of my insufferable antics, my skeleton took the paper cut as an opportunity. Bones began to breach that slip of skin, heedless of my pleas, frenzied with freedom; all I could do was wave a deflated hand as they clacked and clattered out the door.

October 11th, 2019

Flicking idly through her monster encyclopaedia, she spots an entry that seems familiar.

“Mindslug,” she reads aloud. “Shapeshifter. Consumes short-term memories of prey. Often disguises itself as inanimate objects, such as…”

She trails off. “What was I saying?”

October 12th, 2019

The linguist has taken to wearing the spines and dust jackets of past meals, haphazardly sewn together and strewn like a cloak across his tight shoulders. The desire to devour never leaves him, but along with it he has discovered other, more idiosyncratic tastes.

October 20th, 2019

I woke to a man standing over me, syringe in his gloved hand.

“W-what are you doing?”

“I signed a contract with the Devil, see,” he replied. “Boundless wealth and power, in exchange for… well.”

“You sold your soul?!” I gasped.

He tapped the syringe. “Not mine.”

October 22nd, 2019

No need to brush his teeth – they were never anything less than pearly white. Shaving was more of an issue, as the blades tended to chip and shatter against even the lightest stubble. Clipping his nails? Didn’t bear thinking about.

Being invincible had its drawbacks.

October 23rd, 2019

The Cellar Men feared the Attic Dwellers, who in turn lived in terror of the Boiler Closet Tribe. They had nightmares of the Wardrobe King, who lay awake at night wondering when the soldiers of Cupboard-Under-Stairs would strike. Everyone agreed not to discuss the shed.

October 24th, 2019

They stared at the iron grate affixed to the vent’s cover.

“So… what now?” Wizard asked.

“We’ll have to play it off the cuff from here,” Magician replied.

“Improvise?” Wizard said. “The fuse is already lit! We need to go!”

“Then we’ll improvise quickly.”

November 2nd / 3rd / 4th, 2019

You are standing at the heart of a cavern, shrouded in a thick haze of fog. Moisture speckles your skin. Droplets of water follow channels forged by sweat down your face. You are shivering.

Somewhere beyond the mist, a bell chimes. They are ready for you.

November 5th, 2019

You shave the sides, trim the fringe, thin the top. No razors at throats here; as you step back to admire your handiwork, occult symbols snipped and styled across the oblivious banker’s head, you can’t help but think Sweeney Todd’s evils were amateur in comparison.

November 6th, 2019

I waved my hand and watched with glee as the giant mech mirrored the gesture.

“Remember,” the Engineer said. “If you need to disconnect – the command word is ‘exhale’.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I replied. “Any last advice?”

“Yeah. For God’s sake, tread lightly.”

November 7th, 2019 (1/2)

The town below screamed as the colossal stag approached. I braced for impact, the mech following suit.

“Okay,” I muttered. “Let’s crush this.”

The mech, unfortunately, took the command too literally. The screams abruptly cut off as its foot came down.

“Ah, fuck.”

November 8th, 2019 (2/2)

Cass flipped a switch and the machine thrummed into life. Bronze engines whirred as they awoke; a dozen clocks’ hands spiralled backwards. She pulled the door shut behind her.

2019 the first time around had been a real washout. It was time for an encore.

December 31st, 2019

Her powers had remained latent until her life’s cool twilight; she hobbled to the garden door, raised a crooked finger, and smiled a weary smile as the clouds began to swirl in a perfect circle over her head.

January 4th, 2020

Is that all of them? I think that’s all of them. If there’s a story amongst these you particularly enjoyed, you should hop over to twitter and let me know! Give me that sweet literary validation. I crave it so. In all seriousness, thanks for taking some time out of your day to read my dumb tweets. There will hopefully be another #VSS365 update at some point in the distant future – I am going to make an effort to occasionally rejoin the party – but for now, that’s all from me. Stay happy!

-Alex xo

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