Tag Archives: mystery

Writing prompt: The Shortcut

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“the shortcut”

Angie knew all the steam tunnels under campus. They were for maintenance, and students weren’t supposed to use them, but Angie did anyways. She used them because they were convenient and because they didn’t pile with snow and mostly because they made her feel special. She didn’t always make as many friends or attend as many parties as her classmates, but she understood the university and the campus in a way that they didn’t. It was their college experience, not hers, that was stunted.

She first discovered the tunnels by accident her freshman year. A door leading into a hillside, normally a nondescript metal thing, stood wide open. She went inside. And found a secret world coexisting with the world above, with scrawls upon the wall and interesting pipes and strange words. She’d begun to draw maps of the pipes, as well as she could work them out in her head.

Today she wasn’t here to get to class quicker or avoid the rain. Today she was here because a door in the north tunnel and a door in the south tunnel looked strangely similar and very old, with marks and carvings like she’d occasionally seen elsewhere in the tunnels. And if they connected, they would take her to an unexplored area. And they would make an awesome shortcut from chemistry to econ. She pulled the door, and with a great squeal, it came open.

She heard chanting. Did others know of the tunnel? She didn’t know if she was jealous or if she’d just found a group of people to whom she could truly belong.


Writing prompt: using an illustration as inspiration

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

I wrote this prompt while looking at the image below, which I made for my worldbuilding exercises, discussed here.


Enh and Della sat at the table, staring out the window rather than at each other. Enh hadn’t seen Della in fifteen years, not since that terrible night. And now they sat in a beautiful café, staring out at the sea rather than talking. Out of the blue, Della had contacted her two days before. She still hadn’t explained why, and Enh was growing uncomfortable. In the distance, a sailboat skating gracefully by. Enh wished she were there. Anywhere but here.

“It’s good to see you again, Enh,” Della mumbled again. Enh just nodded this time. Della’s voice, so distinctive, was unchanged, and she mumbled just like she had so many years ago. She paused for a long time. “Don’t you have anything to say to me?”

Enh sighed. “You contacted me. And you still haven’t told me why yet. I didn’t come here to reminisce. I came here because to asked me to, and I’d prefer you get to the point.”

Della’s eye’s narrowed. When she was young, she might have cried, but evidently she was past that. “You always make everything hard. Fine, I’ll just say it. I found out that Intira might be alive.”

Enh dropped her fork. Visions of that night came unbidden. The night they found the bike on the beach, but not Intira. Intira’s angry note, condemning all their undermining, how they had never really been friends. A man who’d seen her running into the ocean. Her clothes, found a month later on the coast.

(As it happens, the end of this prompt became inspired by another illustration, see below.)


Writing prompt: Red

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Red” (this prompt was inspired by my science fiction group’s monthly theme. Red was chosen relating to February and Valentine’s Day, but we know there are other themes red suits as well.)

I woke to fresh snowfall outside my window, but it wasn’t the glittering field of white that caught my eye, it was the speckles of red in the white. I woke up and pulled on my robe and slippers and blundered into the brilliant glare. There in the snow, not thirty feet from my house, I found the red in the snow. It was clearly blood, and a lot of it. I felt a cold that had nothing to do with the snow. I kicked at the snow. Perhaps, somewhere, there was a clue to what had happened in the field, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to touch the sullied snow.

My dog, Clover, ran out from the house, through the door I’d left standing wide open. He bounded over, initially happy to see me, but after a moment concerned himself with the patch of snow as well. He didn’t have my compunctions about the blemished snow, and instead buried his face into it, seeking the heart of the problem.

He brought his face up, smeared with red and frost. And in his mouth was a pendant, with the sign of a saint I didn’t know.

“Good job, boy!” I said, and Clover dropped the chain in my hand, and proceeded to kiss me with his scarlet smeared mouth. I screamed and ran back into the house, someone or something’s sticky blood all over my hands. Clover cocked his head to the side and followed behind me. I washed my hands and then I went to the computer to look up this saint.