(MAY 2ND PROMPT)
This is one of my (ER Arroyo) favorite winning entries we’ve had! Check out March’s story below and view the original photo and prompt here.
Prompt: She had only ever stepped outside once in her life, and that time she’d only made it halfway to the dilapidated gate before her parents caught her and brought her back inside to rescue her from the Dangers. Now that her parents had gone to the Next, she had no choice. She knew what she was walking out of, but had no idea what she was walking into.
The girl tread on light feet, mud beneath her toes. The Fog hung heavy on the ground, blanketing time-worn headstones—almost still, like common fog. She shivered in her thin shift.
As she passed the gate, her breathing turned fitful. The Fog around her stirred—undulated, billowed. She clenched her fingers, as clouds coalesced into form, taking the shape of a hunched crone—slate-hued and wavering. A face of seething smog, hair like wisps of mist. She moved, even while motionless.
“Who’s this?” the Ask crooned, in a voice made of wind. “Who, who?”
The crone sprung, swirled around the girl, a tornado of question, sending her dark hair skyward. The girl squeezed her eyes shut. “Who, who, who?” thundered in her ears.
Then, stillness—abrupt and strange. The girl opened her eyes, hesitant. The Ask hovered just before her, staring with a gunmetal gaze. Eyes that were not eyes. “Who?”
“Just a girl,” she answered, in a quiet voice.
“Girls have names, as all things do. Like hills and songs and sickness. Who?”
The girl could taste The Ask in her mouth—sweet, cloying, horrible. “I have no name,” she said. “I am nameless.”
Sometimes, on the cusp of sleep, the girl thought she could remember a name she once had. Her mother’s voice calling out to her—two syllables, sing-song. Nothing more.
“No name,” the Ask breezed, then cackled. “This nameless girl had clever kin. Cannot take a nameless thing to the Next. No name. Who, who?”
“I only wish to pass,” the girl said.
The Ask swirled, gusted. “The nameless may pass. A girl won’t be nameless long. All things have names, girls too. Who who?” And then was gone.
The girl stepped forward once again, the question still echoing in her mind.