This year, on a whim, I entered my first writing competition, the NYC Midnight Short Story Writing Competition, 2021. Not sure what prompted me to do this, as recently I’ve spent most of my day staring at a screen trying to maintain and create a website for my shop, to headache, blurry eyed inducing creative fatigue. But I did it anyway. I registered, and when the time came, I submitted my story for Round 1.
Basically, all the writers were randomly assigned groups, those groups were randomly assigned a genre, a subject, and a character. All writers, in all groups, had the same time and word limit (8 days/2,500 words). I was assigned to Group 9: fantasy, opposites, a milkman. Below is a screen shot of the results for my group. The top 5 writers of each group move on to Round 2.
I made it to Round 2! Round 2 works similarly, except it’s over 3 days and 2,000 words. (Each round has progressively fewer word and time limits.) I wanted to share my Round 1 story, A Night at the Tortoise Atoll Resort and Spa. It begins below the screen shot. Enjoy. It was a fun one to write and I might just use it as a jumping off point for a longer story (book maybe?) – because like the few who’ve already read this, I also want to know how Archie and Annie’s vacation works out for them. 🙂
This was a fun challenge. I’ve enjoyed it, and am thankful I discovered it in time to compete this year and that there are people willing to judge, organize, and compete in something like this. Big shout out of thanks to my hubby, The Goat, for encouraging me, proof reading, making pancakes, and disappearing into the woods for hours to leave the house quiet and distraction free during this challenge.
Annie claps her hands together in excitement, “Oh! It’s lovely! It’s so adorable Archie.”
Archie nods in agreement, “Yes, it is.”
He takes in the sights around them – the swaying palm trees, the crystalline white sand, the deep azure ocean water that crashes against the shore with a musical rhythm, the tiny hut they’ll call home for the next ten days. To Archie it looks like something right out of a story book, almost artificial in its exact replication of the bedtime stories he read to the cubs all those years ago.
But there is something familiar about it too, something that reminds him of home. The vegetation is sparse, the sand is hard on his feet, the temperatures are extreme, the sound of the waves is relentless.
Archie scratches his head, “A lot like home, ain’t it?”
“Don’t be silly. This is nothing like home.”
Archie shrugs. Annie shakes her head. Smiling broadly, she walks up the steps of the tiny hut. The steps bow under her weight. Annie barely fits through the door frame. Archie needs to turn sideways and duck to fit through. The floorboards creak and groan under their combined weight, causing the walls of the hut to arc inward and the palm leaf roof to crinkle.
Archie drops their bags onto the single bed in the hut, “Gonna be a bit difficult to sleep. Those nets on the windows won’t keep out much light. And there’s no way we’ll fit on this bed.”
“Don’t worry, I bought us some sleeping masks,” Annie replies. She helps him push the bed to one side of the hut.
“That’s better,” Archie says as he looks at the now open floor plan. “We can build our nest in the center. It’ll still be softer than our nest at home.” He rearranges their bags so that he can remove the mattress and bedding to build a more suitable place to sleep.
Annie wanders around the tiny space. She notices the resort’s information and orientation binder on a shelf near the door, “Welcome to Tortoise Atoll Resort and Spa” is emblazoned in gold across the turquoise binder.
She opens the binder and reviews the information, “Oh look! I can have my fur braided and beaded like the locals.”
“You’ll look ridiculous when we get home. What’s the point?” Archie asks as he piles pillows onto the mattress on the floor.
Annie frowns, “I know that. But when do I ever have the chance to do this?”
Annie turns her attention back to the resort information, “The week’s menu is in here. We choose our food day by day and it’s delivered daily by pack turtles!”
She looks at Archie wide-eyed, “Listen to this, we can choose from land cow, sea cow, or coconut milk, and chicken or turtle eggs.”
“Guess it’s too much to ask for yak milk?”
“We’re on vacation! It was very nice of the young ones to send us on this trip. They saved for years for this. How often do any of us ever get to do something like this?” Annie asks exasperated.
“You’re right, of course. I’m just tired. That dirigible flight was a bit bumpy. Not having my feet on solid ground makes me nervous.”
“I know,” Annie agrees as she checks a few items on the food list. She looks around the hut as she continues, “But we’re here now. In paradise! Let’s enjoy it.”
“Paradise? Whose paradise? I mean, really, who determines that?” Archie grumbles.
Annie shakes her head.
Unsure of what she is supposed to do with the menu selections, she exits the hut. The instructions in the binder make no sense to her: “Our resort uses a Fruit Bat Onsite Message Board. We use the Fbomb system to remain as unobtrusive as possible and ensure your stay with us is restful. Please use this system to communicate with our staff, including your daily menu choices. Fbombs are checked hourly.”
Logically, Annie thinks it means they should leave the list somewhere for resort staff to find, but she is not sure where. There does not seem to be any message board, or post box like thing, inside the hut, just a dresser, bed, small table, and two chairs. Hoping an answer presents itself, she exits the hut.
She scans the porch. It wraps around the hut. She marvels at just how round everything is. Not a jagged edge in sight. Vines trail from the gutters to the ground, offering shade. Pillows and lounge chairs are grouped in shady locations. Tiki torches flank the door, which is more of a grass curtain than a door. And there, tied to the left tiki torch and a hook on the hut wall, is a bright pink ribbon with a few clothespins. A small sign hangs from the tiki torch; it reads, “Fbomb – Clip your message to the ribbon. Fbombs are checked hourly.”
Annie chuckles to herself, “The young ones are going to love this!”
She clips their menu selections to the ribbon, points to it and says, “Look at this! We clip our messages here and the fruit bats deliver them.”
“How do the bats know where the messages go?”
“I don’t know. I suppose they can read.”
Annie rejoins Archie inside. The nest he assembled from the hut bedding and their luggage looks comfortable. Annie yawns. The two of them climb into the nest. Annie shows Archie how to adjust the sleep masks she purchased just for this trip. Exhausted from their days of traveling and the rising heat of the day, they quickly fall asleep.
Annie wakes first. She’s not sure what woke her. A noise maybe? It’s dark outside. Annie stands, stretches, and shakes herself awake. She hears glass clattering. It’s faint, as if in the distance, but a pleasant sound. She listens, there are footsteps between the bright sounds of glass clanking. The footsteps are moving closer to their hut.
Annie pushes aside the doorway curtain just as the footsteps reach the porch. “Why, hello!” she says, startled by the stick of a man standing on the porch.
The skinny man jumps back with more agility than his rigid build would suggest, “Hello to you too!”
The man clears his throat, regains his composure, and bows slightly, “Sorry, didn’t think anyone was awake at this hour.” He looks Annie up and down, “But then again, we don’t often see the likes of you in these parts.”
“The likes of us?” Archie asks angrily, hunched in the doorway. He growls for good measure.
The stick man waves his hands in front of him, apologetically, “I meant no offense. It’s just so warm here, see? Fur covered as you are, we don’t see many Abominables around here.”
“Let me begin again, properly,” the man clears his throat again. He tugs on his waistcoat, “My name is Victor. I’m filling in for Wilma, the milkman, er milkwoman, er, milk delivery person. Oh, never mind, I’m the milkman for a few days. It’s Wilma’s time of the month.”
“No, no, no. I mean, Wilma’s a werewolf.” Victor motions over his shoulder to the full moon illuminating the navy-blue water behind him.
“Oh, I see.” Annie nods.
“Did you tell them you were Abominables when you made your reservations?” Victor asks.
The yetis look at one another, “No, why would we?” Annie asks.
“Well, you see, we might not see many like you, but we do get a fair number of Ogres, Oni, and Dwarves, so we have a reinforced hut just for them. Think it’ll be better for you as well.”
“Dwarves?” Archie asks, “Aren’t they small? I mean, it’s almost in the name.”
“Yes, but they’re dense. Physically, not mentally. Mentally, they’re sharp as a tack. But they’re made of solid rock, some even have lead in their blood. Quite problematic for some of the staff. So, you see, they may be short, but they are heavy.” Victor explains.
Victor looks into the palm trees and the sky, “Do you mind? Would you like me to see if the reinforced hut is available?”
“Yes, I think that might be best,” Archie says.
Annie nods in agreement.
Victor makes a series of chirps and clicks. After a brief pause, a different series of chirps and clicks responds. Victor smiles, “You’re in luck! It’s open!” He claps his hands together, “Let’s get you to a better suited hut.”
He bends over and picks up the basket of milk bottles. He makes a few more clicking and chirping noises and waves for the yeti to follow him, “Don’t worry about your bags, we’ll get them to you straight away.”
Dumbstruck, neither Yeti move.
“Come,” Victor waves to them again, “this way!”
Archie shrugs. He and Annie follow the strange man down the beach.
“That chirping and clicking?” Annie asks, “You were talking to someone? Or something? The bats?”
“Ah, yes. I forget Yeti have such good hearing. I was using the Fbomb, so to speak. I was talking to the fruit bats. I’m a Vampire.”
Annie nods, “That makes sense. It also explains…”
She stops talking and looks at Archie. He smiles.
“Explains what?” Victor asks.
“It’s just that Vince, our Vampire friend back home, is known for being talkative.” Annie explains.
Victor laughs, “Yes, we can be talkative. It’s just so hard to find other creatures of the night. When we do, we just ramble on and on. Most of us are lonely.”
“It’s why I took this job.” Victor waves his arm to indicate the resort around him, “On the resort, I’m the Night Manager. I might not get to see all the guests, but I still get to communicate with most of them. It’s delightful.”
Victor stops walking, “Here we are. Your reinforced hut. Your home away from home for the rest of your stay.”
Archie smiles, “That’s more like it!”
The hut looks just like the one they just left, except that the canes used to build it are larger, there are more joists and vertical ribs, the porch is wider, and the windows and doors are larger. Even the lounge chairs on the beach in front of the hut are larger.
“Let me give you a tour,” Victor says excitedly. “You were asleep when the staff arrived this morning to show you around. Very smart to schedule a red-eye and travel in the night and early morning!”
Victor proceeds to show them around the hut. There are many amenities that they missed in the first one. The hut is just for sleeping and shelter; behind it there is a shaded kitchen pavilion, and an outdoor bathroom. In a secluded space between the hut and the jungle is a comfortable seating area with a fire pit and a hot tub. The seating area, like the hut, faces the ocean.
He shows them how to use the shades to cover the windows and doorway, explaining, “Ogres are creatures of the night too. And, well, dwarves aren’t, but so many of them live in caves. They find the bright sun, and moonlight, even, disconcerting. So, we have installed light blocking shades in this hut.”
“But I’d recommend sleep masks for you instead. The shades block much of the cool ocean breeze as well as light. Being fur covered, you’ll likely be more comfortable with a breeze, than just relying on that fan, even though it moves a lot of air. With the blinds down, it just moves hot air.”
Victor opens a box on the wall next to one of the windows, “We also offer earmuffs. Keeps the sounds out if that will help you sleep. They have a white-noise option too. You can listen to the sea, which seems ironic to me.”
He shrugs, “But maybe not, ‘cause it will block the sound of the beach goers yelling and running up and down in front of your hut during the day. So, you still fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean, but not the sounds of screaming children. And for the likes of you, there’s a howling wind setting as well.”
He puts them on over his ears demonstrating their use. He smiles as he removes them, “And it even has a built-in alarm, should you need it.”
“I’ve also alerted the staff,” Victor continues, “that you’re nocturnal. House Keeping Services have been switched to evenings, so they won’t wake you. Deliveries will still happen on schedule since we schedule those for the early morning hours anyway. Makes the diurnals feel special to wake to stocked fridges, fresh flowers, and such.”
“Lucky you!” Victor exclaims, “You’ll get to meet the night-shift staff. I may be slightly biased, but they are the best!” He smiles and winks at them.
He also goes over the event schedule, mentioning that they do not want to miss the weekly Tuesday night luau at the Central Garden Pavilion or Friday’s Open Mic Night at the Tiki Lounge in the main building. Victor explains that if they would like to participate in any of the other activities, they just need to leave a note on the Fbomb and he can see about rescheduling or adding it to the night activities.
“Diurnals love staying up late, they’ll jump at the chance for a midnight jungle hike.” He shakes his head in disbelief, “I’ve never understood it. Personally, I like my sleep. But it always did make my survival easier back home.”
“Er,” Archie begins, hesitantly, “I didn’t want to ask, ‘cause it doesn’t really affect me, but how do you survive here? Not on guests, I imagine. That wouldn’t help with the reviews.”
Victor laughs heartily, “No. No. Not on guests. That luau I mentioned? They roast a pig every week. Every week! Pig’s blood is pretty dang close to human blood. I’m telling you; this is the best job I have ever had. They pay me, feed me, and I get to work at night, with some great creatures.”
Victor turns and looks over the ocean to the horizon, “Well, I best be getting back to the Main Building. I need to check on the other night staff and see that everything has been handled before the sun rises and I roost for the day.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you,” Annie says politely.
“Will we see you again during our stay?” Archie asks.
“Of course! Wilma will be back by Wednesday. She’s usually only gone three to five days. So, I won’t be delivering your milk and eggs after that. But I’ll be around. You can count on that. It’s not every day, I mean night,” he pauses to wink at the pair, “that we get guests such as yourselves.”
Victor backs out of the door and bows slightly. He shimmers purple briefly before morphing into a giant bat and flying off into the darkness.
“Well,” Archie says, turning to his wife, “this vacation may be fun after all.”