Wednesday Writing Prompt (WWP)! is a biweekly writing challenge for you and for me.

Here’s how WWP works: I’ll post a writing prompt on Wednesday morning (that’s today!). Then you can participate by writing a 250 to 500 word scene or story in response to it. I’ll post my story response on Thursday and I’d love it if you share your scene or story (or the link to it!) in the comments of my response post.

Let’s see where this wacky world of writing takes us!

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This week’s prompt was:

He’d always hated speaking in public

Ben clenched his fists.

He tried to slow his breathing down. Tried counting. That didn’t work. Tried focusing on the breaths, in and out. That just made him breathe faster.

A dozen pairs of eyes, at least, were staring at him. They weren’t happy eyes either. And they weren’t on happy faces. They were downtrodden. They stared at him with overwhelming sadness leaking from the holes in their faces. They were gaunt faces. Skin stretched taught from malnutrition. And they weren’t very clean either. Mud and grime streaked across their skin, creating a motley rainbow of browns and greys and greens.

Despite their sad, sorry-looking state. Their was a hint of hope in the air. Like Ben could do something. Like he was there to make a difference and help them.

Dammit, he thought. Why did they have to pick me?

He’d always hated speaking in public.  And now, here he was, in a cave of all places, the apparent chosen saviour of a downtrodden people. What the hell was he supposed to say?

“Hello.”

Their focus didn’t waver.

He tried again.

“Hello.”

“You said that already.” A young girl looked at him. She was probably about twelve but looked closer to nine, she was so skinny. She quirked her head to the right. Her gaze was different from the rest. She was obviously intelligent, calculating, a strong observer. But also…just weird. Her tone factual. Her movements slightly jerky, mechanical.

“Um, yeah, I know.” Ben stared back at her. “I’m not quite sure what to say.”

She barely blinked. “Say what you want to say.”

“Yeah…I’m not sure what that is.” Ben stammered. “I’m not certain what they want to hear.”

Everyone in the cave could hear this conversation. Ben realized his. But he didn’t mind, because he honestly didn’t know why they had singled him out.

Well…he did know. He was a stranger. He hadn’t immediately tried to hurt any of them. And Calla was nowhere to be found. She’d hid mighty quickly when they came across the mouth of this cave and seen the evidence of habitation.

But they had seen him. And after hovering in an awkward grouping around him, they had shuffled to surround him and herd him into the cave. They hadn’t spoken. Not a word. This girl was the first to speak. Her demeanour and her use of the common tongue should have surprised him. But, for some reason, it didn’t. He focused on her, and kept speaking.

“Why did you bring me here?” He tried to sound curious and not angry.

The girl looked at him intently. Then lifted her hands and gestured to her fellows as she turned her head to gaze at the group of cave-dwellers surrounding them. “We didn’t bring you here. You arrived. We simply escorted you inside.”

“Why did you escort me inside?” Ben parroted her language.

“It seemed you wanted to come in.”

“Pardon me?”

“You arrived at the mouth. You stood there. You did not continue on. You did not do anything.” The girl shrugged. “That has, in the past, been an indicator that one is seeking solicitude.”

“And you group together, use mobbing as a way to herd this person into a dank cave and then just stare at them, a person who is apparently seeking help?” Ben was getting frustrating. He already hated public speaking, now here he was having a strange conversation with a child, in front of a crowd of half-starved people. And he was the one who needed help?

His body was shaking. This wasn’t good. This was never good. He couldn’t change now. Not with an audience. He was likely to injure someone during the shift. It wasn’t smooth. It was never smooth. It was raw and dangerous and full of gnashing teeth and clenching and unclenching claws.

“There you are dear, I thought I’d lost you,” Calla swept into the cave, bouquet of wildflowers in hand. “Oh, hello.” She smiled at the group of cave people who all shuffled away from her, toward the fortification of the cave walls.

 

trishajennreads' black glasses

Your turn! Post your response to the writing prompt (or your link to it!) in the comments. 

  1. He’d always hated speaking in public. The cameras swiveled at him, blinding him with their spot lights. Frogs could speak better than him, in his estimation. Frogs with no lips.
    Sweat dropped off his ear lobes as he buried his mind in memories. He ran his tongue over the cavity dividing his top right upper lip from his top left upper lip. He loved the reaction he got out of his sisters if he held the bottom edges together and poked his tongue our the top, as if out of his nose. Sometimes he covered the tip of his tongue with bubble gum. Sometimes, at dinner, he pushed spinach or corn mash through the hole. He always had to be careful not to inhale.
    This was his sister’s revenge. His TV producer sister who was claiming no family association so that she could get him to speak about facial deformity on her show.

  2. Ooo, very nice, Trisha!! 😀 Here’s what I thought of with the prompt…

    ~~~

    “Someone has to tell them,” Adam murmured.

    Nahal looked his way. “Tell them, and you take away their hope.”

    Adam swallowed. After months of this hell, did anyone really believe things would go back to the way they were? If this was it, if he was on the other side of this – stranded, waiting for news – he’d want to know the truth. Living in a fantasy, waiting for rescue for the rest of his life was much crueler than learning reality and dealing with it, he decided.

    His eyes roamed over the gathered crowd, landing on a man with a small machete tucked into his belt. It made Adam think of those early days, when everyone panicked and looted and fought to escape, when there was nowhere to escape to.

    Adam brought his gaze back to Nahal, who watched him apprehensively. “Do you think any of them still have any hope?” he said.

    Nahal didn’t answer.

    He let out a ragged sigh and stepped forward, weaving between the people. They fell quiet as he passed and turned their eyes on him when he clambered atop the dented roof of an old, burned out car.

    He’d always hated speaking in public. But standing on a dead shell of a car, addressing the last of the survivors on earth at the end of the world – well, did it really count as speaking in public?

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