Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This Sunday’s prompt is: Door
Choices confuse me. I’m always terrified I’ll make the wrong one, because I’ll never know for sure what lies beyond my choice until I try it. I’ve tried to convey that in this piece, in a magical fantasy world where every 16 year old chooses one of three doors!
This week’s top tip is:
Think about the scenes you’ll write before you start. Your words will flow better with direction!
As I go back to my work in progress for the first time in months for Camp Nanowrimo, I’ll take this advice. I’ve planned scenes, and knowing what I’m writing each day makes it less daunting!
Onto the story!
Like most teenagers in Arcadia, Gavin was a rebel with a love for booze and gambling. Soon he’d be an adult, able to drink without hiding in back alleys or scrounging what he and his ragtag group of friends could from traders. But before that, he had a choice to make.
On the first day of the new year after their sixteenth birthday, all young people had to choose a door. Each held a different destiny. His friends couldn’t wait, but every time Gavin looked at the three ornate doors carved into the mountain a shiver of dread crept down his spine.
Michael, his best friend, stepped up beside him. ‘All right, Gav?’
‘You don’t look fine.’
‘How am I meant to choose?’ He gestured to the doors and bit his lip. ‘Can’t they show us a glimpse?’
Michael shrugged. ‘Even a mage can’t do it. I should know, I asked me mum. Go with your gut. It’s what I’m doing.’
‘Yeah. Yeah, all right,’ Gavin replied, but as they parted to head home, he sighed. ‘How can I go with my gut when I don’t know what’s behind each one?’
When he pushed open the door his mother looked up from the camera she was tinkering with.
Gavin shrugged. ‘Not really.’
His mother frowned. ‘Well, cheer up. Your father’s making your favourite for dinner.’
‘Great…’ Gavin sighed and hung up his coat without a hint of a smile.
He pulled up a chair and slumped beside his mother. ‘How did you choose a door?’
‘Oh, that’s what you’re worried about?’
‘Yeah. Everyone else’s excited, but I dunno what to do…’ He slumped forward and rested his head on his hands. ‘How’d you know you wanted to be an engineer?’
His mother removed the lens from the camera. ‘I weighed up the pros and cons. Door number one held no appeal, I never wanted a large family. Two and three were both interesting, but in the end I decided I liked knowing how things work better than the idea of magic powers.’
‘But I don’t like any of those things…’
His mother smiled and ruffled his hair. ‘You’ve never tried any of them. Here.’ She handed Gavin the disassembled camera. ‘Try putting this back together. See if you like it.’
Gavin frowned at the camera in his hands. ‘But even if I do, who’s to say I get to fix things like you do? Technology could mean research, or anything technical… How am I meant to choose when I don’t know what’ll happen to me…’
‘You’ll never know everything about your choices. Sometimes you have to take a chance and hope everything turns out okay.’
Gavin banged his head on the table. ‘Can’t you choose for me?’
‘And have you blame me if it all goes wrong?’ She shook her head and placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘No. This is a decision you have to make yourself. Just think it over.’
Gavin nodded and slumped at the table.
‘And don’t procrastinate until it’s too late like you did with school! It’s why you’re in this mess in the first place.’
Gavin sighed. She was right. He’d had choices then too, a chance to try out different options from beyond the doors of family, technology and magic, but the long list of options had all blurred into one. By the time he’d decided to try a few of each, signups had closed and he’d missed his chance.
After dinner, alone and pacing in front of his bedroom window, he tried to weigh up his options. What did he like? What did he want from life? Where did he see himself in a few years time? Married with children, looking after a family? On a battlefield, using magic to protect their kingdom? Or career focused like his mother?
‘This is impossible!’ Gavin yelled out the open window. In the distance the usual white light around the three doors flickered and glowed an eerie purple. ‘Huh?’
‘I can show you what’s behind the doors if you’d like.’
‘What? Who’s there?’ Gavin spun around, and a figure materialised from the darkest corner of his bedroom.
‘Just a traveller.’ The figure waved a shadowed hand, and a fireball appeared. ‘Much better.’
Gavin squinted, but with hood firmly in place and loose robes hung over its body it was impossible to tell if the figure was male or female. ‘You’re a mage…’
‘Of a sort, yes.’
‘Michael said mages can’t show us what’s behind the doors.’
The figure waggled a weathered finger. ‘It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they won’t. Price is too steep. For most, anyway.’
‘How’d you know I’ll pay it?’
The figure sniffed the air. ‘I can smell your desperation, my dear.’
Gavin nodded. ‘What’s the price?’
‘Your first born child, to do as I wish with.’
Gavin turned his eyes to the doors and shuddered. An unknown fate, or lose his first child? He glanced at the figure and all it offered. Knowing his own fate was too big an opportunity to pass up, even if it meant condemning his child to this mage: If he had kids anyway, which he still wasn’t sure about. ‘All right. Show me what my future holds.’
‘As you wish.’ The figure waved a hand and a swirling vortex appeared where the window used to be. ‘After you.’
Gavin bit his lip and stared at the portal. He took a tentative step forward.
‘Go on, it won’t bite!’ the figure snapped.
Gavin flinched and hurried into the portal. The light shimmered around him, and he raised a hand to cover his eyes. When the light faded he lowered it, and there, in front of a desk in a classroom surrounded by smiling faces, stood an older version of himself.
‘If you choose the door of family,’ the figure said, as it stepped beside Gavin and gestured to the desk. ‘You become a teacher.’
In a trance, Gavin walked behind the desk and picked up a photo frame. Ten grinning children sat around a table with his older self, and an older woman beamed up at him with an adoring look in her eyes.
‘Obviously your first child will go to me,’ the figure said with a flourish, ‘But the many you have after that will more than fill the space in your heart.’
Gavin frowned. Why did he look so happy? His future self would surely be too busy teaching classes and raising his own kids to drink or play cards. It was a miserable thought.
‘Show me something else,’ Gavin said, and mentally crossed family off his list. That happiness couldn’t be real. He’d never be happy without a drink in his hand or a card up his sleeve.
The figure’s lips curled into a smirk. ‘Of course. The door of technology’s next. Hop in.’
A red portal shimmered this time, on the whiteboard behind the desk. The students didn’t react, and future Gavin carried on the lesson. Gavin turned away from that future and stepped inside.
On the other side, a lab shimmered into existence. A clock ticked on the wall, and Gavin glanced at the time. Midnight, and yet the figure by the desk, a Gavin with crinkled eyes and slumped shoulders, sat hunched over a microscope.
‘If you take the path of technology,’ the figure drawled, ‘You’ll develop cures for diseases. The work will be hard, but very rewarding.’
‘I’m still working at midnight? What about-‘
Gavin snapped his head around as the door slid open and a short woman with glasses stepped into the room. She hurried forward and kissed his older self on the cheek.
‘I’ve put the kids to bed and washed your other lab coat.’ She picked at a stain on the lab coat the older Gavin wore. ‘Oh, and Michael called, wanted to know if-‘
‘I don’t have time for a catch up!’ The older Gavin said. He shook off the woman and turned to scribble some notes in a battered notebook. ‘I’m on the verge of a breakthrough.’
‘You been saying that for years. Maybe a break will do you good?’
‘Busy,’ the older Gavin snapped.
Gavin flinched and turned to the figure. ‘Nope, don’t like this one either. Show me magic.’
The figure smirked. ‘Figured you’d say that. Don’t worry, magic is great!’
A blue portal shimmered in the tall windows of the skyscraper they were in. Gavin ran towards it, and straight out into a crowded pub.
‘Now this is more like it,’ Gavin said with a grin. His older self sat surrounded by friends, beer in one hand, decent hand of cards in the other, and a woman snuggled under each arm. ‘This one’s perfect. What do I do?’
‘You’re in the military,’ the figure said. ‘Top of your class. Very popular too…’
‘Perfect. And this’s at the barracks?’
‘In a fashion,’ the figure replied with a mysterious smile. ‘Are we done here?’
‘Yeah. Of course.’ Gavin took one last look around the pub and grinned. ‘Thank you so much!’
‘Of course, my dear. Just remember, I didn’t do it for thanks. We’ll meet again some day.’
‘Whatever,’ Gavin replied as they stepped through the portal into his room. ‘That guy? He ain’t ever settling down or having a kid. You’ve lucked out.’
‘Perhaps,’ the figure said. It waved its hands and disappeared in a cloud of smoke, but its voice echoed in the quiet of the room. ‘Although I rarely do.’
Gavin shook his head and dismissed the figure from his thoughts. For the first time in a year he went to sleep with a clear mind, dreams full of a future of drinking and gambling away night after night. The next day he chose the door of magic alongside his best friend Michael.
The academy was everything the cloaked figure showed him and more. Surrounded by friends, Gavin learned spells and incantations, played pranks, and graduated top of his class.
It was perfect, until he was assigned to the front line. Now, he longed for the future where he taught children and had a large smile on his face. He hadn’t smiled in years, not since his best friend lost his life in a fiery explosion the first week out here.
He blamed the cloaked figure for the life he led now. It’d only shown him half of the future, what it knew he wanted to see rather than the full, terrifying, reality. He could only guess at its motivation, for out here there was no way Gavin would have a child for it to take.
He never thought he’d fall in love, out here in the wasteland where spells and insults were hurled across wide open spaces. It hit him like the bullet that ripped through him when his shield failed, and she appeared like a vision to lead him to safety. She was a glimmer of hope in the chaos of the battlefield, and in her arms he found solace.
To his horror she fell pregnant, and the enemy tore apart their only way home. Still, he’d never seen her smile so brightly, even if their child was to be born amidst the chaos. He didn’t have the heart to tell her it’d be snatched away the moment it was born.
They named their daughter Hope, and Gavin hoped she would make better choices than he did despite her dark and mysterious guardian. She was snatched away, and he shouted to the sky in despair knowing he could never forgive himself. As his love plotted to get their daughter back, Gavin kept from her the biggest secret of all: It was all his fault.
Thanks for reading!
There will always be good and bad aspects of any choice you make, and we should try to make the best decisions for us. Even when you think you know what the future holds, things could turn out very differently!
I’m putting this story in the ‘box of ideas I’m not allowed to touch until I finish my other two works in progress.’ I think it has potential to be something more.
Why not write a short story or poem based on a prompt yourself?
The prompts for April are:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts on Pinterest:If you use one of the prompts, feel free to share your story links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!