These were the criteria for the Furious Fiction challenge for November 2023:
I almost didn't participate because I just couldn't find the right angle. I thought of a place in a witness protection program for a whistleblower. I thought of a lonely astronaut in the cabin of a spaceship. But I didn't succeed in coming up with a story that I could tell in less than 500 words.
When all else fails, I usually resort to writing fantasy because that comes easy to me. However, when I don't have to put effort into something, I usually don't like the result. I thought my story was OK, but also that it's certainly not the best story I wrote in the context of a Furious Fiction challenge.
Much to my surprise, it made the long-list anyway. This is my 5th long-list nomination on a total of 9 challenges this year!
This is what I wrote:
In the middle of nowhere, three brothers—a hunter, a farmer, and a writer—occupy the house of their late parents. Thoughts of murder cross their minds every morning, but then their duty calls and fills their mind. The hunter hunts. The farmer farms. The writer writes. At the end of the day, they are too tired for fratricide … until a knock on the door disrupts this delicate balance.
‘Greetings, I am the goddess of fortune,’ the uninvited guest introduces herself. ‘I am here to grant each of you a single wish.’
The eldest brother doesn't have to think twice.
‘Dear goddess, grant me a bow and arrows that never miss their mark.’
In a flicker of divine magic, the goddess produces the deadly weapon.
‘Do you see that pheasant in the meadow yonder?’ she beckons. ‘Close your eyes, aim, and let your arrow soar.’
The pheasant, aware of the danger, tries to escape the arrow, but the projectile changes course at the very last moment and kills the bird.
Now the middle brother steps forward.
‘Dear goddess, grant me a whistle that makes the crops grow as I blow it.’
With a spark of heavenly sorcery, the goddess conjures up the enchanted instrument.
The farmer raises the whistle to his lips and blows a gentle breath. A tapestry of life sprouts from the fertile soil—carrots, leeks, and cabbages galore.
Finally, the goddess turns her gaze toward the youngest brother.
‘What is your heart's desire?’ she inquires.
The writer blushes. He hardly dares to say his wish out loud.
He whispers: ‘I yearn for your love, dear goddess. Will you marry me?’
The goddess is taken aback by the audacity of this request.
‘Are you sure this is what you want? For I am a goddess, and you are but a mortal soul.’
Being an expert in Greek mythology, the writer knows all about Thetis marrying Peleus, Eos marrying Tithonus, and many other gods and mortals uniting in holy matrimony.
‘I am certain,’ he replies.
‘As you wish,’ the goddess decides. ‘Let's marry right away.’
‘You,’ she instructs the hunter, ‘pluck the feathers of the pheasant.’
‘And you,’ she orders the farmer, ‘harvest the vegetables.’
The writer's siblings obey their soon-to-be sister-in-law and prepare a feast befitting the divine. By the end of the day, their brother is married.
Words fail the writer to describe the magical wedding night. He doesn't put a single word on paper during the weeklong honeymoon. Happy writers don’t exist. Either they’re happy, or they write. The newlywed groom is in a happy space; gone is his need to write.
Jealousy about their brother's happiness fuels the siblings' thoughts of murder. Soon, the inevitable happens: the hunter's arrow strikes the writer straight in the heart. The farmer hides the body underneath a whistled bed of flowers, but that doesn't fool the widow.
‘I am the goddess of fortune,’ she reminds her brothers-in-law as she leaves them in dismay. ‘Bad fortune, that is.’