So I’m a few days late for Valentine’s, but I can’t control when inspiration is going to hit and it hit me hard last night. Carter Gordon is a story I’m going to be working on this year in the hopes of turning it into THE NOVEL that I’ll send to publishers. The inspiration for this story came from a song that I’ll reveal later, but basically comes down to the question, “Wouldn’t it be funny if a guy literally died because a girl didn’t love him?” And everything just flowed from there. 

If you like the story, please feel free to re-blog, leave a comment or send me some (good or bad) feedback at karra(dot)social(at)gmail(dot)com.

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 Red cupcake with whipped cream and a fondant pink broken heart. A fondant bandage is placed over the break in the middle of the heart.

Usually, when a guy screws up on Valentine’s Day, the worst that can happen to him is that he gets dumped or gets his tires slashed or has his entire comic book collection cut up into confetti. But that’s what happens to normal guys when the perfect Valentine’s goes horribly wrong.

Me?

Well, I get shot.

By a bullet, in case you needed the confirmation.

How did this happen? The plan for the night had been flawless. I had booked the best table at Le Chateau Bleu, the fanciest French bistro in town. We had an ocean view and a menu that I had the chef specially prepare. I even splurged on bottle of Dom Perignon. Of course, those were minor, unimportant details compared to who I had managed to make my Valentine:

Erin Kamdia.

Also known as the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life. She had sea green eyes that- honest to God- twinkled when she laughed, soft blonde curls that hung loosely over her perfect shoulders, and long, tanned legs that went on forever. This was the girl I had been in love with for the past two years. The girl I’d only spoken six sentences to since I met her in European History 101 and four of those were “Uh, where is the guy’s bathroom?”

An outsider for most of my life, I had somehow snagged the most coveted date with the most popular girl at Columbia University.

Okay, sure, I had, kind of, maaayyybe, paid to get this date.

But I couldn’t help that she was in a charity dating auction nor was it my fault that I was the lucky bastard with enough cash to win Erin. Besides, it’s not like I’m the first guy to pay for love. Look at the Tudors. And Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Sure, he ended up with a prostitute, which I find both wrong and hot, but he did find love in the end. And all it took were a few hundred dollars in Julia Roberts’ thigh high boots first.

The way I saw it, I was just at the right place at the right time.

I couldn’t have felt like a luckier man… that was until I couldn’t find a parking spot and ended up seven blocks down from Chateau Bleu. And that it started to rain by block five. And that, upon arriving at the restaurant, I found out my chef was down with a cold and his sous chef had no idea about my special menu. The one filled with delicious low carb and low protein dishes in respect of Erin’s diet. With a full house, he had no time to prepare anything even resembling special just for us; it didn’t help either that all I had talked about on the way here was the amazing food I had planned just for her.

Needless to say, Erin was upset. Which led to thirty long minutes of awkward silence as we sipped on Dom- the one thing I planned that actually came through- and did little else. I felt so bad about screwing up that I was worried about saying anything that could ruin the night even more.

Halfway through her salad, Erin suddenly put down her fork, brushed aside her golden bangs, and said, “Is it okay if we grab the bill? I have… a test I need to study for.”

“A test?” I echoed, dumbly. In the back of my mind, I already knew what was coming, but I had always been kind of slow when it came to girl language.

She looked around and signaled to a waiter for the bill. “Yeah. It’s English Lit, tomorrow.”

I suddenly sat up straighter. “With Professor Anders?”

“Uh, yes.”

“I took his class last semester! What’s your test on? I can help you study,” I offered, excitedly. I had aced Anders’ class. If I couldn’t impress her with a big romantic no carb dinner, then I sure as hell could impress Erin with how much I knew about English Literature.

Erin bit her lower lip as her bangs fell over her right eye again. “No, that’s fine. You’ve already done… so much.”

I smiled at her. “But I want to help you.”

“God, Carter,” she groaned, then covered her face with her hands. I stared at her in bewilderment, unsure what to do. Was she PMS-ing? What was the correct way to handle a girl bleeding profusely… well, down there?

Erin ran her hands over her face and through her hair. “God, I can’t lie to you when you’re being so nice. Look, I don’t have a test tomorrow.” She bit her lip uneasily. “It’s just…this is going to sound awful. Carter, I…I never wanted to go on this date with you. At least not today!” she added quickly when my smile faltered. “You see, I’ve been going out with Jared Palmer- you know Jared right? He’s a receiver on the football team- for the past two weeks. So, this would have been our first Valentine’s together and I was really hoping to, you know, spend it with him. Make things official between us.”

“Oh.” It was all I could say. Out loud anyway. In my head, I was shouting a lot of four letter curse words at her. I was starting to entertain the idea of flipping the table over and stomping all over her disgusting no carb, no protein salad, when she reached over and put her hand over mine. And as pathetic as her salad was, I was even more pathetic. Because my anger just dissolved the second her skin touched mine. It was the first time I had ever felt her. She was warm, soft and delicate.

A part of me wanted to let her be with Jared so she could be happy, but a more selfish part of me, my soul perhaps, didn’t want her to leave. Couldn’t let her leave because she had no idea just how much I had risked to try to be with her.

“How can you be so sure you want to be his girlfriend after only two weeks?” I asked. “And didn’t he just transfer in three weeks ago? You don’t know much about him. He could be bad news.”

“I appreciate the concern, Carter, but I can assure you Jared is all good news.” She blushed. “And when you know, you know right?”

“So, you know that Jared is going to be the guy who brings you minestrone and not chicken soup when you get sick? Or that he’ll pick you up when you’re done hot yoga at 10:30 every Thursday night? Or that he’ll remember to bring your mom lilacs when you finally take him home for a visit?”

Erin stared at me with wide green eyes. “How did you know all that?”

I shrugged, hoping I had made my point. “I’m observant.”

She frowned and suddenly stood up. Before I could register what was happening, I had Dom Perignon poured all over my head. Erin put the bottle down and cried, “You stay away from me you little creep! Whatever you’re doing, stalking me or peeping in my dorm, stop it or I’ll call the cops on you!”

The entire restaurant watched along with me as Erin walked away from our table and out the door. I sighed and hung my head down, dripping more champagne on to the front of my pants. I could feel everyone’s eyes burning into the back of my head and hear the whispers leaving their lips, but I was past caring.

Suddenly someone started applauding and laughing. I looked up to find my least favorite person sitting in Erin’s vacant seat.

“Well done, young Carter,” said the Devil, breathlessly as he wiped tears of mirth from his eyes. “I’m really proud of you for standing up for yourself at the end there. Entirely wrong choice of words, but I’m sure Erin will see the good intentions behind them one day. After she’s done thinking you’re a psychotic stalker, that is.” He poured the bottle of Dom, which was suddenly full again, into Erin’s empty champagne flute.

“You’re loving this aren’t you?” I said with disgust.

“I do thrive on the suffering of others,” he replied as he refilled the glass. When he was done, he took a long, languid sip. “But ask me a harder question next time,” he added with a wink.

“I hate you.”

“Sorry kid, the “Telling the Devil I Hate You” award already went to Marilyn Monroe a decade ago. Would you believe she would rather be dipped in hellfire for a thousand years than have sex with me?” It seemed like a trick question considering that the Devil looked like the dude who played the Green Lantern, but who knows if that was even his real face.

“Wait- Marilyn Monroe went to hell?”

The Devil took another sip. “Well, suicides go to Purgatory, technically. But it’s still kind of my territory.” He waved his hand back and forth a few times as if to say, ‘but let’s brush that aside’. “So, you ready for the big finish?” he asked in a game show host voice.

I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms over my chest. “What is it going to be this time?”

The smile he gave me was, well, devilish. “I figured that since today’s a holiday created by greedy Americans to rob lovesick fools, we’d try something new.”

“Is it going to hurt more than the boat propeller chopping my head off?”

He laughed. “Maybe.”

Shouts suddenly came from the front of the restaurant. I turned around as the room erupted into screams. Four guys in black masks, holding machine guns and duffle bags, had barged through the doors, demanding that everyone give up their money and jewellery before they started shooting.

I rolled my eyes and looked back at the Devil. “Robbers. In a fine dining restaurant. Seriously?

“Hey, banks are getting harder to rob nowadays,” he pointed out.

“GET ON THE FLOOR!” one of the robbers yelled. He fired his gun into the ceiling for good measure. Except instead of just harmlessly piercing the stucco, one of the bullets ricocheted off the silver chandelier hanging in the center of the room, and made a beeline right for my neck.

It felt like a burning hot fire poker had just gone through my skin, followed by a dozen killer bees that wanted to make a stinging range inside my neck. Blood immediately started gushing out of the wound and my mouth. I fell off my chair and on to the floor, trying to breathe as blood rushed into my lungs. People were screaming all around me and at one point, one of the masked robbers was above me. The sight of me coughing up blood must have shocked him because he accidentally pulled the trigger on his gun and sent a round of bullets into my right leg.

Luckily, I was already starting to go numb by this point. One of the last things I could clearly make out was the Devil’s face, sipping champagne from Erin’s glass and giving me a thumbs up sign.

I suppose I should quickly explain before time runs out.

A month ago, I was an unattractive, awkward twenty year old with no declared major and working a dead end coffee shop job simply because I liked coffee. My only friends were my three genius roommates who only hung out with me because of all the free coffee I gave them. Oh and I was in love with the most popular girl at Columbia. In other words, I was a loser.

But then I found a way to call on the Devil and, amazingly, it actually worked. He promised to help me get the one thing I wanted- for Erin to fall in love with me. He was even cool enough to give me a year to try to make it work and if I failed, only then would he take my soul.

I was desperate for my life to change, so I accepted. I was also extremely drunk at the time, so I can’t say there haven’t been any regrets. Especially when I found out the hard truth about the Devil’s sick way of getting his shits and giggles. If you ever decide to make a deal with the Devil, don’t ever utter something like, “Every day Erin doesn’t love me, it feels like death.” Because the Devil really is evil enough to make it so that every day I can’t get Erin to fall in love with me, I die a horrible, painful death as a result. Like now.

But the way I see it, tomorrow is another day and I still have a year to make things happen with the girl of my dreams. And hey, the pain is already starting to fade away even.

One thing is for sure though. This is definitely the worst Valentine’s Day ever.

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This story came to me after I stumbled on a short story contest wherein the only guidelines were that your story had to be about the Winter Solstice or occur on December 21st. I remembered that December 21, 2012 was the day the Mayans said the end of the world with come. I liked this idea and wondered what the “end of world” could possibly look like. I pictured chaos, fear, darkness. But I also knew that I didn’t want it to be a world without love or hope.

This story got Honourable Mention in the contest, which I’m extremely pleased with! It was fun to write and also inspired me a lot. So, while it may be called “Winter’s End,” it certainly isn’t the end of this story. But more on that later. For now, I’ll just say thank you and I hope you enjoy “Winter’s End.”

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The Mayans predicted that the end of the world would come on the shortest day of the year. December 21st, 2012.

But the end didn’t happen like everyone had been expecting. The Earth didn’t shake or split right down the centre. The oceans did not rise up and crash against the land, swallowing up people and buildings alike. A giant meteorite didn’t descend from the heavens and collide with our planet. There wasn’t even a loud explosion. In fact, there was barely a sound at the end of the world.

All you could hear, if you really listened hard enough, was the whisper of the ash falling from the black sky onto the stark, desolate ground.

But an hour before it happened, the sound of Kaya’s frantic breathing and the pounding of my heart against my ribs pierced the air. I struggled to support Kaya as we raced through the woods, searching for Shelter. It was only early afternoon, but the night had taken away what little sunlight was left. Even the stars were gone now, replaced by an eternal cloud of dark grey.

We ran past a dying tree, its branches clawing over our bodies. Kaya grunted painfully as he clutched his right side, which was nothing more than a sickening mess of blood and flesh torn right to the bone. Kaya loved to taunt the Hunters and play tricks on them no matter how much I urged him not to. He always managed to outsmart them before they could touch him, but just like the rest of the world, his luck eventually ran out.

“Was it after the oak tree, Kaya?” I gasped, doing my best to avoid more trees. “Kaya?” I glanced at him. There was a pained look on his pale face and I knew he was struggling to keep up with me. He knew how important it was to get to Shelter. But his gold-flecked green eyes were dull; he was fading. I was going to lose him.

The doomsday clock had started quietly ticking five years ago. No one saw it coming. That day was marked only by a small, uneventful earthquake. It happened in a city where earthquakes were so frequent that nobody gave it any notice. If only they had known to expect the extraordinary in the ordinary, they would have seen the darkness beginning to engulf the light. If they had paid enough attention, The War might have turned out differently.

Kaya and I might have turned out differently.

I brushed past a tree branch, sending a cloud of ashes falling on our heads. It made Kaya cough violently and his grip on me suddenly loosened. He fell from my arms and on to his knees. I called out his name.

“Are you alright?” I said, kneeling beside him. “We can rest if you like.” Without waiting for his response, I forced him to lie down and placed his head on my lap. The howls echoed in the distance; the scent of Kaya’s blood was going to lead the Hunters straight to us, but I no longer cared. I brushed dirt and ash from his forehead. He was ice cold.

“Kai, just leave me here,” Kaya said, weakly. “You need to save yourself. It’s all over without you.”

I shook my head, my long blonde hair sticking to my sweaty face. I tried to hold back the tears. “It’s over for me without you.”

Kaya was my perfect match. Created especially for me just as I was created to be his. We were born sixteen years ago in Shelter, the only home we have ever known. There had been ten of us before the clock started. Five perfect genetic pairs, one male and one female each. Five perfect chances to build the world up again after it had fallen. But we never anticipated the rise of the Hunters or that these beasts would come after us. Kaya and I were the only ones that escaped with our lives.

“K-Kai,” he sputtered. Flecks of blood flew from his mouth and my heart clenched at the sight of the scarlet droplets on his handsome face.  “It’s not just us anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“We…we weren’t the only ones that survived. There’s one more out there.”

I stared at him, too stunned to speak.

“I s-saw him yesterday…before the Hunters attacked us.” I saw his hand crawl through the ashes towards me. His fingers shook as they clutched mine. “You have to live to find him, Kai. He’ll help you finish the plan.”

I shook my head. This was madness; it was doomsday talk all over again. I wanted him to stop speaking about the end, to talk instead about getting better and staying with me, but the pool of blood from his body was growing around us.

The howls intensified. The Hunters would be here before I was ready to leave.

Kaya’s fingers stopped shaking and his face took on a serene quality I’d never seen before. I held his hand tighter, hoping it would be enough to keep him here with me.

“Go Kai. Please,” he begged. His voice had grown so quiet that I had to concentrate on the movement of his lips to understand the rest of his words. When he was done speaking, I started to sob.

There were two things I had been born knowing: that I would save the world someday and that I would love Kaya forever. Now I was going to have to let go of one of the only things I have ever known.

I laid him gently on the ground and kissed his blood red lips one last time.     Then I turned my back on him and ran.

My creator once told me that people used to celebrate the Winter Solstice, a day that occurred on December 21st and signaled the return of longer days. It meant the rebirth of the sun gods and festivals were always held in their honour. But today, there would be no celebrations. There was no longer any sun to celebrate.

It didn’t take the Hunter long to find me. I moved blindly through the woods, stumbling in the darkness. It had been a year since Kaya and I had fled Shelter and my memories of the path we took away from it were hazy. Tears and ash stung my eyes as I ran. I wanted to distance myself from Kaya, but losing him only made me realize the futility of what I was doing.

I stopped running and stood among the trees, my breath coming out in painful gasps. It was impossible for one person to save the world. Whatever was left of it was doomed now without Kaya as my partner. I was suddenly so completely without hope that I was paralyzed.  I could only scream and it was a sound that came from the depths of my soul, weakening every part of my battered body. I didn’t want this life anymore.

A howl joined my agony. I was done with running from the inevitable. I didn’t turn to face my Hunter. I didn’t even flinch when I felt his hands around my neck, his claws digging into my skin and drawing blood.

It was December 21st and the ash fell steadily like it had always done. An ordinary presence on an extraordinary day.

The day that my world ended forever.

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A week ago, I entered a short story contest on The Write Practice (a fantastic blog for writers). The prize was that your story would be published in an anthology. A. REAL. PRINTED. BOOK!!!Of course, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by, so when part of the contest required getting as many “Likes” as possible on your story in order to stand out to the judges, I reached out to my friends for help.

Unfortunately, I didn’t win the contest, but I still feel on top of the world. This is because I can’t believe how much amazing support I received from all my friends. There were over 60 Likes on my story and the judge even got in touch with me to tell me I was so lucky to have such a strong support group! The many great comments and feedback on “Winter’s End” were also unbelievable. A friend even sent me a message letting me know that she related a lot to my main character, Kai, after going through a similar loss as her. It was amazing to know that something Iwrote could touch someone like that.

I’ve never shared my stories with people before, let alone joined a contest to actually have someone openly judge something I’ve written. Doing something like that is a lot like standing naked in front of a football stadium full of people and expecting them not to laugh at you. It’s a nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching and downright frightening experience.

This is why I am so grateful to my friends, my wonderful support group. Thank you so much for reading my story, “Winter’s End,” for liking it and getting me noticed by the blog editors (Have I told you yet that it got Honourable Mention?!). And for also being so excited for me whenever I talk about what I’m writing, for thinking that it’s cool to pursue being an author instead of a more stable, “realistic” career, and for pretty much being the inspirations for all of my stories.

I know that I’m going to be a success because I have all of you. So, thank you, thank you, thank you <3

Image: ffffound.com via stephanie on Pinterest

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