Short Story Contest #2: Obsession

OBSESSION

Hi everyone! It’s Friday, and that means that it’s time for another contest!

This week’s theme is “obsession.” You could do anything from a funny story about a woman obsessed with finding the perfect purple pen, or you could do something a little darker, like a stalker obsessed with his victim.

  • Keep your word count between 1000-1200
  • The story can be funny, dark, romantic, dramatic, or anything you want. We will not accept explicit pornography.
  • Please post on your blog and link back to it in the comments.
  • If you do not have a blog, you may post it in the comments.
  • Leave your Twitter handle at the end of the post so we can notify you via Twitter (and promote you) if you win.
  • Please do not edit your submissions after you’ve posted here!

Deadline is Saturday, 10/11/2014, midnight Central Time (Chicago, USA).

Prize is a chance to do a guest post on our blog! Link exchanges are great, aren’t they?

Looking forward to reading your entries!

12 Comments

  1. The package arrived with a Guernsey postage mark. Mary set it on the kitchen table along with the breakfast things while the children called up to Mark, who had yet to unwrap himself from the bed sheets. Guernsey meant it was from Uncle Pedro, and another strange toy for Mark. He wasn’t a real relation, rather an old neighbour from Mexico who had imposed himself on the young family. He was given the name affectionately by Mary, after arriving alone in the leafy suburb from Tijuana. Though he had now married and begun his own family he regularly sent a package.
    On his first visit he watched Mark trying to solve a word puzzle in the local newspaper. He delighted in seeing this grown man thinking out loud, slamming his fist on the armchair and refusing to give up. Ever since Pedro had sent increasingly difficult riddles and puzzles for father to solve. So far each challenge had been completed.

    Mark lay in bed thinking how his children were excited by Pedro’s flamboyance, how his wife looked at his green eyes and olive skin. He thought about this man’s obsession to defeat him, even from afar.

    Finally making his way downstairs in his slippers and dressing gown, Mark could hear their excited voices. In the hallway he sighed and looked at his face in the mirror, his pale skin and receding hairline. He took a deep breath, lifted up his shoulders and pulled a smile for his family.

    ‘Morning all,’ he said, looking round at the beaming faces.

    ‘There’s another package from Uncle Pedro,’ said his two children, offering him the lumpy brown envelope. Mark kissed his wife on the cheek and took his seat at the table, his coffee and toast ready in front of him. Taking a bite from the thickly buttered slice, his children stared at him, waiting for the package to be opened.

    ‘Open it daddy,’ they said.

    ‘Go on, show us what it is Mr Grumpy,’ said Mary, squeezing his shoulder.

    He took another bite and chewed slowly turning the package in his hands, delaying the reaction from his family. Pulling the corner, he prized away the tape and a ball of bubble wrap fell out into his hand. Considering its size, Mark thought it might be something simple like a Rubik’s cube, but pulling away the layers he was disappointed. Inside was a square wooden box, which he opened and inside found a metal sphere.

    ‘Oooooh. What is it?’ Mary and the children said.

    The sphere was sliced like a hardboiled egg into segments, which were coloured alternately red and yellow. There were also Mexican styled symbols going round each segment, resembling a fish, a frog, a snake, a rat and a hyena. There was nothing else inside the box, no instructions, no letter from Pedro. Mark put the box and the ball on the table and took a bite of his toast.

    ‘Come on daddy. What is it?’

    ‘I have no idea?’ Mark said, shaking his head.

    ‘He’s got you this time,’ Mary said, pouring herself some juice.

    ‘He’s got you, he’s got you,’ the children sang, as they popped the bubble wrap in their little hands.

    Once breakfast was finished Mark went back upstairs and left the box in the drawer of his bedside table. He took a shower, got dressed and once the children were ready took them down to the local shops. He bought them sweets, and they played on the swings and the roundabout and they forgot all about the box.

    A week passed, Mark went to work and each night he entertained the children, as Mary ran a bath. Not once did anyone mention the box. The following Friday Mary drove the children up to her parents where they would stay until Sunday evening. Waiting for her to return Mark had a long shower, a shave and sitting on the edge of the bed he reached into the bedside table for his nail clippers. His hand felt the box and he flinched, and he looked over at the wooden grains in the light of the reading lamp. Finally he picked it up, took out the sphere and inspected the symbols further. He turned the segments until the symbols all lined up, but nothing happened. He settled back on the bed and continued twisting the sphere to try and make something happen.

    When Mary returned home he was still naked on the bed, turning the sphere in his hands.

    ‘I think I’ve got the hang of it,’ he said, without looking up.

    ‘I thought you were going to make a start on dinner,’ she said, unravelling the scarf from her neck.

    ‘You go ahead. I’ll be down in a bit.’

    Mark finally came down after Mary called for the fifth time.

    ‘Any luck?’ she said, as he bumped into the doorframe, his eyes on the shiny ball.

    ‘Not yet.’

    He put down the ball for five minutes as he ate dinner.

    ‘Go on,’ she said, as he finished his last mouthful and looked up at her. ‘You can carry on with that. I’ll do the dishes.’

    ‘Thanks love,’ he said, and plonked himself on the sofa in the living room.

    While everything continued around him Mark toyed with the puzzle, turning the segments back and forth, trying to make sense of the animals, as his wife cuddled up beside him and watched TV. Even after she left for the bedroom and static played on the screen, he continued until finally falling asleep at 4 o’clock.

    ‘How late were you on that thing,’ Mary said, as he stirred at about 11am sprawled across the sofa.

    ‘Not sure,’ Mark said, finding the ball still in his hands.

    ‘Come on. Give it a rest and I’ll make you some breakfast.’

    Leaving it behind he ate the bacon sandwich then they went for a drive down to the gardening centre. Walking round the watering cans and bags of compost, all father could think about was the sphere, the ancient mystical symbols. What did it mean? He could hear Pedro laughing and mocking him, finally catching him out.

    ‘Slow down,’ Mary said, as they screeched round the corner onto their road.

    Once inside the house he returned to the sofa and the ball. For weeks he continued, the sphere safely in his pocket, ready to use any available time. As his children played down the park. While his wife slept next to him. During his lunch breaks at work.
    It had never taken this long before, maybe a week, but this time it was different. He started to wonder if it was even a puzzle. There had been instructions before, some guidance.

    ‘I still can’t do it,’ he said a month later.
    ‘Can’t do what?’ Mary said.
    ‘That new puzzle.’
    ‘I thought you’d given up on that.’
    ‘No. You mean you wouldn’t mind?’
    ‘Of course not.’
    ‘OK. I officially give up.’
    ‘You can’t win them all.’
    ‘Just don’t tell the children OK?’
    ‘OK dear,’ Mary said, and they embraced each other.

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