The Dossier

She had never seen such a large collection of information on one person. Even in the movies the files agents had on people were an inch or two thick. And that was for an adult.

She stared at the manuscript. At least a foot high it documented every move that Sarah Millicer had made – a  child, barely 6 months of age.

Sarah’s mother was obsessive compulsive. The warnings to this older first time mother that the pregnancy could be more traumatic compared to the experiences of a younger mother had translated into this – collections of notes, records, tables and charts. The beginnings of insanity.

Rachel leafed through the document on the table, scanning the contents. Every minute of the child’s day was recorded; when she woke up, her manner on awakening, what she did as the day passed – every action accounted for – what she ate, how long it took, when she had a diaper change, the colour and consistency of the contents, the colour of her complexion – anything and everything which could be recorded was written in the most meticulous detail. The more Rachel turned pages the more she saw. The late night reviews of the past day by Genine, Sarah’s mother, desperately evaluating Sarah’s day, reassessing how to make things better, finding patterns in behaviour and suggesting how to make the next day run smoother and happier for her baby. Could the second feed have been too close to when the laundry went on? Is that why her nappy was more brown than yesterday? Maybe the music on the radio that day was the reason for her impatience during tummy time. The hyper vigilance was intriguing, but Rachel identified with ease a mother beyond the reach of help.

Returning to the first page, Rachel’s brow furrowed. The date didn’t make sense. Sarah would have been 5 months old when the records began. But it also meant that this foot of information was less than one month worth of notes – no small feat.

A half-open closet door caught Rachel’s eye. Opening it, she found mounds of carefully bound papers. They were boxed as if archived – “6-14 weeks”, “15-22 weeks,” Rachel read. “Sarah, birth-1 month,” “Sarah 1-2 months,” they continued. Every month had its own stack of papers. A look through “23-31 weeks,” informed Rachel that these must have been the notes Genine kept while she was pregnant with Sarah. Everything Genine ate and did, her moods, all catalogued. Again, daily reflections on what had happened that day and an attempt at mapping out why Sarah reacted to some things and how these were to be interpreted from the womb. After all this careful cataloguing, it was hard to stomach that something as unforeseen as a car crash had ended Sarah’s life so abruptly. Genine was sectioned into a mental institution and it didn’t seem likely that she would be released. Unfortunately, these records didn’t stand to help her case – this was someone unlikely to cope well in the real world.


Write a 500 word story titled “The Dossier”.

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Message in a Bottle

Prompt: You’re enjoying making sandcastles at the beach when the ocean waves wash up a message in a bottle. You pull out the message. What does it say?

They had been enjoying their day away from the farm. It was nice of Ingrid’s mother to let them have the day, she knew it was a sacrifice on her mother’s part for farming wasn’t easy. That was why Ingrid had insisted on helping with the morning milking before they left instead of going the night before. Her mother hadn’t really put up much of a fuss aside from the obligatory objection, but was probably somewhat relieved that Ingrid had been happy enough to do the milking this morning. The rest of the day wouldn’t be just as hard and anything that wasn’t done could always be caught up on tomorrow. And Andrew, the neighbour’s boy always came along to help with the evening milking once he finished school so that should make things easier too. Still Ingrid considered, they’d packed so much into the day already that they could head back in an hour or so and help with the last of the milking without feeling that they’d missed much of their day off, and if they weren’t too early back her mother wouldn’t feel put out at the offer of help. Of course if they came back too early, before the milking started, her mother was liable to take offence – she was determined to be independent and adamant that they have a proper day away. Ingrid knew it was with their best interests at heart but also knew that her mother, although by no means past it, was no spring chicken either. The last thing Ingrid wanted was for her mother to do herself a mischief being too determined not to accept when something might require more than one pair of hands. Ingrid had warned her mother and had left clear instructions for enough things to keep her mother busy during their brief absence but it would be just like her to try something silly like washing the first floor windows. Ingrid didn’t need her mother falling off a ladder at that particular caper – nor any other for that matter.

Ingrid and Andrew – her husband, not the neighbour’s boy – had really enjoyed their day away from the farm. They caught the matinée in the theatre, had an interesting lunch experimenting with sushi – turned out to be a pleasant surprise that – and then a leisurely walk along the promenade gazing out to the sea, eyeing the horizon. Andrew bought them a couple of ice creams and they’d settled on the beach to enjoy them. Ingrid had been absentmindedly piling sand between them both as they chatted casually over nothing of consequence – another pleasant change brought on from being away from the farm – and before they knew it the pair of them were building a fully fledged castle with turrets and a moat. Andrew even bought a couple of little plastic spades from one of those pop up stalls further up the beach. It was coming along nicely and just when she thought they were finished Andrew decided to add some grounds to their sandy property and began constructing some mounds which were eventually to represent a menagerie of animals owned by the castle lord. Ingrid was headed down to the water to replenish the little plastic cup they were using to help dampen the sand to help it stick together when a glass bottle caught her eye, bobbing in the surf. Unusual to see, she considered. Focusing on it further as she approached, her brow furrowed. Was that… paper in the bottle? It couldn’t be, that sort of nonsense was for children’s tales. No one really communicated that way. Ingrid stopped as the bottle washed closer to her, dragged further up the beach with the approaching tide. That really did look like paper. Curiosity getting the better of her, Ingrid took a final few steps, bent at the waist and picked up the bottle, straightening again. A furtive glance in either direction confirmed that no one had noticed that she had been taken in by such a childish fantasy. She held the bottle upside down and the quarter bottle of salt water was reunited with the rest of the sea. The paper didn’t budge. She shook the bottle to encourage its departure but it stood firm. Well, soggy but determined to remain in situ. Ingrid took her wooden stick from her ice and used to it poke the paper to the mouth of the bottle where she hooked it out with an index finger. Before it was fully unravelled she knew she would be disappointed. It was soggy and threatening to turn to mush. And yet, considered Ingrid, there was the suggestion of a note having been written on it. Holding it up to the sun she was sure she could see the smudgy remains of some kind of message. Too bad that she couldn’t make any of it out. She sighed to herself, half a smile playing at the corners of her mouth as she put the thoughts of reading a real distress message out of her mind. Filling the cup with water and secreting the paper in her pocket as a silly memento she returned back up the beach towards Andrew. Absentmindedly she turned the now empty bottle in her hand. It was strange, she thought, the idea of sending messages in bottles. Where would someone stranded on a remote island get a bottle from? Or paper? Or a pen to write a note? Or anything to stop the bottle so that, unlike this one, the message wouldn’t be erased by the sea? She smiled and sat down by Andrew who was still working away on their impulsive creation. Childish stories, she mused. Suppose children don’t really need logic when they can so easily suspend the beliefs of reality. All the same, curious that someone appeared to have attempted some kind of communication in that manner – apparently without the bottle stop. Chatting with the mermaids, Ingrid smiled. Now that could well be an interesting story.

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Human Again

Thunder rolled, loud and fast on the tail of the lightening which had preceded it just moments before. Rain could not be falling faster or harder if it tried. Streams of water which could not make it down the drains instead ran down the gutters lining the streets as the drains struggled to handle such an unexpected and uncommon onslaught.

Everyone had sought refuge indoors and so the streets were deserted, littered only by the odd broken umbrella and wheelie bins which were now being flung around by the storm. Cars had fought their way through the streets as they flooded, and most of these cars were now parked outside their owners’ homes. Most people had risked a quick dart from car to their house, but dotted along the street were one or two cars whose owners remained in the car seat, hoping that the storm would end as abruptly as it had begun so that they would not have to get wet. It did not look hopeful.

A lone individual was spotted walking along the road. She was soaked to the skin and was hunched over as she hustled along the footpath against the force of the storm. Her coat was pulled tight around her as she tried to retain a little heat. Turning, she walked along her garden path to the front door of her home. She riffled through her handbag, the contents getting thoroughly soaked as she did so, before retrieving her keys. Hands numb from the cold and wet, she struggled to fit the key into the lock. It was temperamental at the best of times, and the weather and immobility of her fingers did nothing to ease the situation as her frustration also mounted. After a solid 4 minutes of fighting, which almost reduced her to tears of exhaustion and impatience, the lock finally gave way and she was able to stumble in through the door.

Have to get that lock sorted,” she mumbled to herself as she thrashed and fought her way out of her coat as the material clung to her.

Just what I needed after the week I’ve just had,” she thought. It had been the most stressful week in a long time, and all topped off with a thundering great storm. She was not pleased.

Shivering, she made her way to the bathroom, peeling her way out of her clothes as she went, bundling them into the laundry hamper. Her shivering increasing, she took her fleecy bathrobe from the back of the bathroom door, enveloping herself.

A bath,” she mused, “that’s what I need.”

Tying the cord for the robe around her, she bent and ran the taps for her bath. Checking the temperature, she also picked out a bath-bomb and chucked it in as a bit of an added treat. Swirling the bath water as it filled the bath, she could not help but shiver again.

This calls for some tea too,” she thought. Leaving the water to run, she went to the kitchen. She made a large mug of tea with extra sugar and lifted a book on her return journey to the bathroom.

Easing into the water, the cold seeped out of her along with all the stresses and worries from the past week. She flicked the taps off with her feet and settled in for a good soak before she could even muster the energy to read any of her book.

Perfect,” she smiled to herself.

Daily Prompt

After an especially long and exhausting drive or flight, a grueling week at work, or a mind-numbing exam period — what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

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Requited Love

Oh, be still my beating heart, for the anguish that runs through my veins is nigh unbearable. How can my family be so blind, so unforgiving to the love which courses through my body?

She moved from the centre of the room, restless and fretful in her confinement. She glided towards the window, her sole means to view the outside world. Perching herself on the edge of the stone ledge, she tried to content herself as she searched redundantly for a glimpse of the man she loved.

Her father, outraged that she had even considered loving one of his servants, had banished her to the tower where she could overlook the battlements. Her father had then, in a ‘sporting move’ released the fiend in question, permitting him a brief reprieve before the hounds were unleashed and tore after him across the fields. Locked away high in the tower, dressed in her finest white silk she watched until she could bare to watch no more as the man she loved ran for his life. Eyes overcome with tears, she had turned away and cried herself to sleep, cold and alone.

For days she wandered back and forth in her prison tower. Becoming more and more depressed, she dreamt of happiness in the arms of her one true love. She spent hours by the window, hoping blindly that somehow he had survived and would come to rescue her. But it was not to be. As the days passed, she formulated her own plan to be with the one she loved. They would be together in the afterlife, as they were unable to be in this life. He was surely there now, and waiting for her. He would wait no more.

Without another word nor another thought, she threw herself from her tower. Her pristine white robes flew out behind her as she tumbled through the air, completing her journey to the arms of her love.

Watching her demise from outside the battlement wall was in fact the man she had thrown herself to her death to meet. Indeed he had survived the gauntlet the father of his love had challenged him with and he had returned to save her. Seeing she had given up on him filled him with a feeling he had not experienced before, that akin to resentment and confusion that she could not see her way to waiting for him, to trust in his redemption. His hopes dashed to the ground, he made a vow that he would not be so foolish in future. The man turned his back on the woman he had absurdly been so sure had loved him as he loved her, and determined to find true happiness with one who was worthy of his love. He set off across the fields, a strange happiness beginning to seep into his consciousness as he acknowledged it was better to have come to this revelation now than when it was too late to walk away.

Prompted by: 

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Always Read The Label

Check it out!” she exclaimed at last as the bedroom door was carefully closed tight and she was joined on the bed by her best friend. The package between them, and they huddled close together. The excitement in the room was palpable. Their hearts raced with glee and impatience. Sarah had almost exploded with anticipation as she exchanged pleasantries with Naomi’s parents, not wanting to appear rude and knowing that they could not run the risk of letting ‘parentals’ think that they were up to anything. Even a hint of what they were about to do and they were sure to get into big trouble.

Parents, she thought fleetingly, parents never understood.

The two fifteen year old girls exchanged a glance which spoke volumes in the few seconds that it lasted as they looked at one another before their attention was once again focused on the brown padded envelope which lay between them.

Are you sure?” ventured Sarah, glancing at the bedroom door. It did not have a lock and so she was concerned that they may be interrupted.

It’s fine,” breathed Naomi, “they think we’re studying. They won’t want to bother us.”

They’d been nagging for days that Naomi should start studying properly and so she was banking on them being happy that it was finally happening.

There was a brief pause as the two teenagers continued to stare at the envelope.

You’d think it was going to open itself,” remarked Naomi with a smile. “Or that there’s something alive in it and it’ll move if we keep watching.”

I know,” agreed Sarah. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs to their fullest capacity with air. “You ready?” she glanced at her friend.

The intake of breath was duplicated and then came the words.

Yeah. Okay,” soft and quiet, like Naomi was afraid that saying them any louder would shatter the moment.

Sarah slowly picked up the packet, turned it over in her hand and began pulling at the sealed flap, opening it inch by inch. Naomi’s eyes were riveted to Sarah’s fingers as they worked. She licked her lips, nerves building further. The envelope open, Sarah carefully tipped the contents into her waiting hand.

Two microchips.

One Information Leaflet

The girls’ heads were almost touching. Sarah looked up and met Naomi’s eyes. Looking down once again, Sarah offered a microchip to Naomi who took it between finger and thumb.

So… this is it?” Naomi breathed, holding the chip up to look at all sides of the foreign object she held.

Guess so,” replied Sarah doing the same, turning hers over and over in her own hand.

Guess we should have a quick look at this,” Naomi said, picking up the information leaflet. It was the same sort of thing you get in medicinal pill boxes, she thought to herself as she opened it out. She caught some movement out of the corner of her eye as she examined the paper. Glancing up, she was just in time to reach out and grab her friend’s hand, stopping the movement which had distracted her.

What are you doing?” she exclaimed as loudly as she dared, knowing her parents would feel the need to intervene if too much noise came from her room when she and Sarah were meant to be studying.

Trying to swallow this thing!” hissed Sarah, anger seeping into her tone. “What do you think I’m trying to do?”

You don’t think maybe we should read this first?” rebuked Naomi, waggling the leaflet at her friend.

Listen,” Sarah said in a half whisper, her emotion beginning to get the better of her, “I didn’t spend all this money to not take this thing. When I ordered it, the website says all you have to do is swallow it and you’re done. It’s that simple. What’s the point in wasting time reading that thing?” she snorted, pointing to the paper Naomi held.

Well, I just thought that maybe -” Naomi began.

Arching an eyebrow decisively, Sarah shrugged and gulped back the microchip, coughing a little as it went down, grazing her throat on its journey. Naomi could not finish her sentence but just stared motionless at her friend, waiting to see what would happen next. Shaking herself from her apathy Naomi ventured to speak,

Well..? What does it feel like?”she asked, hesitantly.

Sarah did not reply. Looking at Naomi her brows gathered together and her face became the picture of confusion. Suddenly, she screamed and clutched her head, covering her ears. She continued to scream and, clearly in pain, rolled into a ball. Writhing around, she fell off the bed and continued to roll around the floor, still squealing and clutching her head.

Sarah,” hissed Naomi, fear taking over her senses, rapidly replacing her curiosity and anticipation in milliseconds. Kneeling by her friend she begged, “Sarah, ssh! What is it?! Please! You have to be quiet and just talk to -”

The bedroom door opened, slamming off the wall of her room.

What on earth is going on in here?!” shouted Naomi’s father over Sarah’s pain-ridden screams which were unrelenting. Naomi’s mother was a half step behind as both parents entered the room.

What’s happened, what’s wrong?” added Naomi’s mum, expressing more concern compared to the displeasure and borderline anger Naomi’s father was exuding.

I.. I don’t know,” stuttered Naomi. Terrified she realised that she had no choice but to tell her parents the truth. “We.. Well Sarah just..” Unable to find the right words to express what she knew she needed to say, she proffered the Information Leaflet and the microchip she still clutched in her hand.

Oh my.. Please no,” breathed her mother as she scanned the paper, one very important fact jumping out at her that apparently Sarah had missed when she ordered the mind-reading microchips online. Naomi’s mother dropped the paper and the microchip, her hands reaching her cheeks, complete immobility taking over her body as shock took over.

There was nothing she could do, she realised. Looking at her daughter she wondered for a fleeting moment how her child could be so stupid. So careless. The fact that Naomi had not swallowed her microchip was, at this point, irrelevant.

The room went silent suddenly. Naomi returned her attention to her friend, shaking her and calling her name. Sarah did not stir.

Sarah!” she called, louder with each repetition. “Sarah, wake up! Come on!” she became frantic.

It’s no use,” her mother breathed.

What?” asked Naomi, confused and very much afraid.

What is going on here?!” growled Naomi’s dad. “Would one of you please tell me what’s happening?” His anger was overflowing.

She was too young. She shouldn’t have taken it,” said Naomi’s mum as if she was in a trance; a world of her own. Her eyes were focussed on the middle distance and she became more absent from what was happening as shock fully took over her. She fell towards her husband in a faint. He caught her and eased her to the ground.

Not getting any further answers, he bent over his wife to retrieve the leaflet which had been dropped as it had seemed to provide some sort of a reason for the events which had unfolded in the room. Naomi continued to stare at her father, still kneeling by the body of her friend, searching for the same answers.

Standing, Naomi’s father read aloud the words on the paper.

After a lifetime of devotion and development, now available for commercial use:

The Mind-Reading Microchip

Simply swallow for instant results.

WARNING: Do Not use unless… you are 18 or over… as results could be…

Naomi’s father struggled to keep reading the words in front of him as disbelief threaded its way into his veins.

…results could be fatal for children and young people under this age….

Looking at his daughter and the body of his child’s best friend, anger seeping away, he concluded the warning in hushed tones.

This is… due to an overload of neuron receptors, which will… cause

the brain to experience a surge of stimulation

too great for the brain to process.

This causes the host to become brain-dead… and

unable to sustain life.

There was nothing more to be said. Naomi looked at her father, eyes welling up with tears, not wanting to believe what she had just heard. Looking at her friend, she could not allow her self to accept that this was it. It was over. Her friend’s life had been taken from her.

Full Disclosure

A mad scientist friend offers you a chip that would allow you to know what the people you’re talking to are thinking. The catch: you can’t turn it off. Do you accept the chip?

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Calling Mr. Sandman

She tossed and turned. Side. Back. Other side. Front. She mashed her pillow with her fist. Gripped her stuffed toy companion for comfort in the hope that it would help to settle her. Covers off. Covers on. Half off. Covers on with a leg dangling out the side. Leg quickly back in. Front. Side. Back. Other side. Back.

Her mind was racing. She had been exhausted when she came to bed. Her eyes had been drooping in front of the television, so when the programme had ended she had turned the set off and made her way to bed, making a visit to the bathroom to pee and brush her teeth beforehand. Her head hit the pillow, and instead of falling to sleep, apparently everything that had been quietly napping in the back of her head came crashing out and whizzed around, leaving her no respite.

Job application needed to be completed and handed in. The paperwork for her current job needed to be finished. She had a report to write for a meeting. What was the plan for work tomorrow? There were two groups to organise activities for. Her friend was coming to visit in a couple of months, the dates for that needed to be sorted so that the travel arrangements could be finalised. She was visiting a friend at the weekend. Her pay claims needed to be handed in by tomorrow and she’d forgotten to do them this evening. How was she affording everything she was planning to do this summer?

Thoughts crashed together and she was unable to focus on any one for more than a few moments before the next interrupted, followed by the next, jumping back and forth and round in circles. She tossed and turned, telling herself that she needed to sleep so that she could actually do things tomorrow and be productive so that all of these thoughts racing through her mind could be crossed off as a To Do list.

Checking her phone, she sighed in frustration as she realised that two hours had passed already. Sighing with frustration she hoped that it wouldn’t be too much longer before sleep took her over.

Come on Mr. Sandman,” she thought, “take me away.”

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Finding Inspiration

Sitting down to write, her head bursting with ideas, she felt sure that she was going to explode if she did not unload something onto her laptop. Hitting the power button, she was eager to get started. Opening a word document, her fingers hovered over the keys… and her head was suddenly empty. In the few short moments it had taken to “assume the writing position” all of her motivation and inspiration had disappeared. And yet the urge to write was still present. It’s just that now she had no idea what to write.

She spent a few minutes trying to recall some of the ideas which had filled her mind only moments before, but all to no avail. She racked her brain to see if inspiration would surface in some form, but it was not to be. Defeated and deflated, she turned to the internet. Surfing YouTube and Facebook, she thought perhaps later she could return to her original task. Hours later, she gave up for the day and went to bed. Perhaps tomorrow would bring better luck.

How do you find inspiration and motivation to write? How do you develop ideas into something you can make into a full, proper story rather than just a few lines? What things help when you’re feeling empty-headed?

Back of the Queue

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to starting (an activity, a hobby, or anything else, really)? Tell us about it — and tell us about what’s keeping you from doing it.


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