TELL ME • by Edward Ashton

“Tell me how the world ends,” Ani says.

Michael shakes his head.

“Some things,” he says, “it’s better not to know.”

They sit across from one another, at a table in the back of a dimly-lit bar. His hands are wrapped around a half-empty bottle of Belgian beer. She lifts a martini glass, sips delicately at a drink that’s more fruit juice than liquor.

“You think you know everything,” Ani says.

Michael shrugs. It’s a statement of fact, not an accusation. They’ve only just met, but this much at least is already clear.

“I’m dying,” Ani says. “Did you know that?”

Michael hesitates for a moment, then nods. He looks up from his bottle and into her eyes. Ani doesn’t look like a dying person. Her skin is smooth and pale white, with a dusting of freckles across her nose and her cheeks. Her hair is long and full and red streaked with blonde, flowing over her shoulders in a billowing wave. The only hints at her mortality are a slight gauntness in her face, and a faint tremor in her fingers as they rest on her glass.

“Do you know what will kill me?” Ani asks.

Michael nods again, and takes a long pull at his beer. Lank brown hair frames his broad tanned face, and the week’s worth of stubble on his cheeks and his chin.

“I do,” he says, “but I’m not going to tell you.”

Ani laughs.

“I already know,” she says.

“No,” Michael says. “You don’t.”

Her eyebrows knit in annoyance.

“I do,” she says, “but you obviously don’t. You’re trying to be mysterious. It’s not working.”

Michael smiles, spins his bottle like a top, then catches it before it falls.

“I know you have malignant melanoma,” he says. “I know you’ve been told it’s in your liver and your lungs. I also know it’s in your brain, in your right temporal lobe. And I know that your doctor hasn’t told you that yet.”

Ani’s jaw sags open. Michael finishes his beer, waves a waitress over, and orders another. He orders a second drink for Ani as well, though her glass is still half-full.

“But…” she says.

“Right,” he says. “I know you’ve got cancer. You know you’ve got cancer. You think that’s what’s going to kill you, but it’s not.”

Ani scowls.

“It is,” she says. “My oncologist says it’s not curable. He wants me to do chemo anyway, says it could give me an extra few months, but…” Ani touches her hair absently with one hand, then shakes her head.

“I know,” Michael says. “You made the right decision.”

He leans his chair back on two legs, balances for a moment, then drops it back down with a bang. A song begins playing on the jukebox at the front of the bar. Ani smiles at the first few notes, then looks down at the table and blinks away a tear. Michael raises one eyebrow in question.

“My father used to sing this to me,” she says. “When I was little, and I couldn’t sleep, he’d come into my room, sit by my bedside and sing. I think this was the only song he knew.”

“It wasn’t,” Michael says. “It was just the only one that didn’t have the word ‘fuck’ in it.”

Ani laughs.

“You’re probably right,” she says. She slides her hand forward until their fingertips touch. “I still love it, though.”

“So do I,” Michael says. He pulls his hand away. “My father never sang this to me, but my first girlfriend did once.”

The waitress comes by with their drinks. Michael hands her a twenty, smiles, and refuses the change.

“She was dying too,” Michael says. “My girlfriend, I mean. It was a summer thing. She was gone before Christmas.”

“What from?” Ani asks.

“Brain tumor. She was sixteen.”

They drink together in silence until the song ends.

“So,” Ani says. “Are you going to tell me?”

Michael looks up, wipes at his eyes with one hand, and finishes his second beer in one long, bitter pull.

“Tell you what?”

Ani rolls her eyes.

“What’s going to kill me.”

“No,” Michael says. “I told you. Some things, it’s better not to know.”

Ani tries to meet his eyes, but Michael’s gaze slides away.

“Did you tell her?” Ani asks.

Michael closes his eyes, and bows his head until his forehead nearly touches the lip of his bottle.

“It doesn’t matter now,” Ani says. She looks around. The bar is nearly empty.  “Tell me how the world ends.”

Michael raises his head, and looks down at his hands. They lie on the table, palms up, fingers half-curled. His nails are short and ragged, bitten almost to the quick.

“You’re right,” he says. “It doesn’t much matter.”

The song on the jukebox now is a saccharine dance mix that nobody’s father or girlfriend would ever sing to them. As it spins down, a light flares through the window at the front of the bar. It grows brighter and brighter, until the whiteness seems to seep through the ceiling and the walls. Ani looks down. Her bones are dark tendrils in her glowing white hands.

“You see?” Michael says.

Ani closes her eyes.

“Tell me…”


Edward Ashton is the author of more than a dozen short stories, as well as numerous technical articles and medical texts. His fiction has appeared most recently in Daily Science Fiction, Perihelion, and Escape Pod. You can find his work online at smart-as-a-bee.tumblr.com.


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Rate this story:
 average 4.5 stars • 8 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Dustin Adams

    We see a lot of end of the world stories behind the scenes, so it takes something extraordinary to make us sit up and take notice.

    This is that story.

    I just love the character of Michael, I love his gift (or his power), his kindness, and his sadness and pain. His actions that speak volumes. He doesn’t tell her, which is the opposite of the title, and you can feel his torment.

    I am a little confused about the first girlfriend bit. Assuming he’s an angel (and I really am assuming) he’s there to help Ani move on. He’s done this before, with a girl, but just once. Or at least once that he felt pertinent to share. A lot of people are going to need this type of help on this terrible night, so, why Ani?

    Although this isn’t terribly important. The phrase, “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” applies here, I think. He chose her, and he’s with her at the end.

    • Carl Steiger
      Well, if he IS an angel, I suppose little things like time and place don't apply to him, so he can help all the people he wants to this night.
  • We see a lot of end of the world stories behind the scenes, so it takes something extraordinary to make us sit up and take notice.

    This is that story.

    I just love the character of Michael, I love his gift (or his power), his kindness, and his sadness and pain. His actions that speak volumes. He doesn’t tell her, which is the opposite of the title, and you can feel his torment.

    I am a little confused about the first girlfriend bit. Assuming he’s an angel (and I really am assuming) he’s there to help Ani move on. He’s done this before, with a girl, but just once. Or at least once that he felt pertinent to share. A lot of people are going to need this type of help on this terrible night, so, why Ani?

    Although this isn’t terribly important. The phrase, “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” applies here, I think. He chose her, and he’s with her at the end.

    • Carl Steiger
      Well, if he IS an angel, I suppose little things like time and place don't apply to him, so he can help all the people he wants to this night.
  • Pete Wood

    Five stars. I tried to find some nit with the writing, but could not. Great characters. Subtle deep descriptions and tone. World ends not with a bang, but a whimper. Wow.
    I did not think Michael was an angel. I just thought he was somebody with a gift- or curse.
    Great job.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      Looked like an awfully big bang to me...
      • pete wood
        I was talking about the emoitonal reaction of the characters more than anything else.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          What I thought was so powerful about this story was in letting the reader imagine the anguish compressed into such a small moment in time.
  • Pete Wood

    Five stars. I tried to find some nit with the writing, but could not. Great characters. Subtle deep descriptions and tone. World ends not with a bang, but a whimper. Wow.
    I did not think Michael was an angel. I just thought he was somebody with a gift- or curse.
    Great job.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      Looked like an awfully big bang to me...
      • pete wood
        I was talking about the emoitonal reaction of the characters more than anything else.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          What I thought was so powerful about this story was in letting the reader imagine the anguish compressed into such a small moment in time.
  • Carl Steiger

    Very, very good, but I’m somewhat unsatisfied with the ending. I think the conversation would have abruptly ended with the flash of light (which I’m assuming is a nuclear detonation). Unless Michael really IS an angel, and is shepherding Ani into another world at that point. I don’t think that’s really what he is, but he does have an angel’s name.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I thought it was a meteor to put the one that hit Siberia to shame...
    • MPmcgurty
      I assumed nuclear detonation, but I like that Edward didn't tell us what it was. I also Michael as a supernatural, but didn't see the angel angle until other commenters mentioned it.
  • Carl Steiger

    Very, very good, but I’m somewhat unsatisfied with the ending. I think the conversation would have abruptly ended with the flash of light (which I’m assuming is a nuclear detonation). Unless Michael really IS an angel, and is shepherding Ani into another world at that point. I don’t think that’s really what he is, but he does have an angel’s name.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I thought it was a meteor to put the one that hit Siberia to shame...
    • MPmcgurty
      I assumed nuclear detonation, but I like that Edward didn't tell us what it was. I also Michael as a supernatural, but didn't see the angel angle until other commenters mentioned it.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Really fine story. Takes a lot to pull me into fantasy-presented-literarily but you sure did.

    I did think he was one of the Big Guys, in human guise, and I agree with Carl that if so, he’ll be able to spread his companionship (it’s not quite comfort) widely.

    I would have preferred to end at Michael’s last line of dialogue. Four stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Really fine story. Takes a lot to pull me into fantasy-presented-literarily but you sure did.

    I did think he was one of the Big Guys, in human guise, and I agree with Carl that if so, he’ll be able to spread his companionship (it’s not quite comfort) widely.

    I would have preferred to end at Michael’s last line of dialogue. Four stars.

  • Genghis Bob

    I did not get the impression that Michael was anything but human. A very gifted human, with some omniscient-like tendencies, but I never got the idea he was an angel. Especially since he has (had?) a father, and a summer-romance girlfriend. That puts him squarely in the human column for me, ’cause angels don’t date and I’m sure it says so somewhere in the Bible. Somewhere.

    Anyway, him being human makes him more likable for his kindness in the story, which makes me happy. ‘Smatter of fact, the whole story makes me happy – five stars for sweetness and style.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I thought of him in a human incarnation for this purpose--complete with human history. For an angel that could have taken place in the blink of an eye--but I think any interpretation works just fine with this story.
  • Genghis Bob

    I did not get the impression that Michael was anything but human. A very gifted human, with some omniscient-like tendencies, but I never got the idea he was an angel. Especially since he has (had?) a father, and a summer-romance girlfriend. That puts him squarely in the human column for me, ’cause angels don’t date and I’m sure it says so somewhere in the Bible. Somewhere.

    Anyway, him being human makes him more likable for his kindness in the story, which makes me happy. ‘Smatter of fact, the whole story makes me happy – five stars for sweetness and style.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I thought of him in a human incarnation for this purpose--complete with human history. For an angel that could have taken place in the blink of an eye--but I think any interpretation works just fine with this story.
  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed a lot. Thought Micheal was human and the end of world a nuclear catastrophe – dark tendrils in glowing white hands got me thinking radiation – but agree with Sarah that if Michael was an angel and the world ends with a meteor crash this story would work equally well.

  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed a lot. Thought Micheal was human and the end of world a nuclear catastrophe – dark tendrils in glowing white hands got me thinking radiation – but agree with Sarah that if Michael was an angel and the world ends with a meteor crash this story would work equally well.

  • MPmcgurty

    I liked the story very much, with a few exceptions. The different interpretations as to what happened make it more attractive to me than if described to me by author. Dialogue was written very well and, for the most part, diction was good.

    My exceptions are that a few times the old standards came out: “dusting of freckles”, “flowing over her shoulders in a billowing wave”, “takes a long pull at his beer”. Unlike the fantastic “Her bones are dark tendrils”. That really paints an eerie picture.

    I’m not sure why Ani still says “Tell me…” if her hands are glowing (does she just want to know what’s happening?). Regardless, I’d stop after Michael’s last line. It has a haunting effect.

    I hope we’ll be seeing more from you, Edward.

  • MPmcgurty

    I liked the story very much, with a few exceptions. The different interpretations as to what happened make it more attractive to me than if described to me by author. Dialogue was written very well and, for the most part, diction was good.

    My exceptions are that a few times the old standards came out: “dusting of freckles”, “flowing over her shoulders in a billowing wave”, “takes a long pull at his beer”. Unlike the fantastic “Her bones are dark tendrils”. That really paints an eerie picture.

    I’m not sure why Ani still says “Tell me…” if her hands are glowing (does she just want to know what’s happening?). Regardless, I’d stop after Michael’s last line. It has a haunting effect.

    I hope we’ll be seeing more from you, Edward.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    What a great, creepy story. I was reminded of an old X-Files episode.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    What a great, creepy story. I was reminded of an old X-Files episode.

  • joanna b.

    Here comes the minority opinion. I am wondering why I’m so out of step with the commenters above all of whom I find reliable and perceptive in their comments.

    First, the positives:

    1. The long paragraph in which the light flares through the window, the whiteness seems to seep through the ceiling and walls, and Ani’s bones. I thought that was an elegant description.

    2. Michael telling Ani that her cancer has spread to her right temporal lobe and that her doctor hasn’t told her this yet. This was a surprise and clearly shows Michael’s gift of omniscience.

    3. The writing style: it’s skilled, it’s well thought out, it’s not “off the cuff,” it kept me reading

    The negatives:

    1. The dialogue didn’t seem genuine to me but more an attempt at trendiness. I couldn’t get into two people, upon just meeting, and one saying “Tell me how the world ends” and “You think you know everything” as a statement of fact. How did she know this? What did he do to show her? The section on her malignant melanoma seemed to me the only part of their conversation that seemed to be based on something concrete but it comes after she knows that he knows everything.

    2. Michael’s moving his hand away when she touched his fingers: I wanted to know why he did this. If he knew the end was so close, who was he that he would be so rejecting of human contact? Certainly if he knew the world was going to end in about 30 seconds, he wouldn’t be fearing a long term commitment if he patted her hand.

    3. Why would he not tell her a nuclear explosion coming in 30 seconds would make her cancer not a real problem? “We’re all going, sweetie, cancer or not.” What’s the point of holding back this information?

    3. This seemed to me like two movie stars or high fashion models having a theoretically deep, meaningful conversation that is really quite shallow and devoid of emotion. For example, Ani blinking away a tear.

    Because I remained relatively unmoved while reading this, other than admiring Edward Ashton’s way with words, I gave it 3 stars.

    I do agree, however, with MPmcgurty: I’d like to see more of your work, Edward Ashton.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I thought about many of the points you raise while reading and rating the story. And of the points Michael below raises. For #2--I took that as indicative of his angelic provenance. He appeared to her as human, with human attributes and a plausible history, but he was of another realm not to be physically touched... I was surprised, myself, how much I liked this, and I thought that was the gift of this writer, to pull me into something that outwardly has many elements I generally dislike, yet at the core it was remarkable.
      • joanna b.
        sarah, you were clearly moved by the story. that's terrific. i wish i had been. i was very interested in the story but not moved to the extent that i could get into the tragedy in either one of their lives. as for angels, my "perception" of them (not that i've ever perceived one) is that they are ready, willing, and able to wrap human beings in their wings and carry them off to a better place. i guess i'm a fan of some grounding in reality. if an author puts an angel in a story, he/she has to say so. i can't buy that michael was an angel. but as i said, mine was the minority opinion and i have to ponder that. Carl, I did like your "Ka-Boom" comment to Michael Ampersant, but, do you not think that the media would be overflowing with joy to keep the population informed of the asteroid, how close it was getting, when it would arrive, how many people it would kill, how britney spears and miley cyrus felt about it, etc. i hope i'm not perceived here as mocking the story. i took the story very seriously and felt that Edward Ashton put a lot of work into it.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          What I liked about it was the atypicality (?) of the angelic presence (if it was an angelic presence). He's with her in those final seconds of horrified realization, and maybe that's all the comfort anyone needs. Perhaps that's why the author wrote Ani's final action and words (though I wish he'd stopped with Michael's). I was surprised into liking this because it didn't fulfill my apprehensions of a literary story. It wasn't moving but rather unexpected and Michael's pain--as I saw it in the anguish of his mission--was an interesting take on what I thought his role was.
  • joanna b.

    Here comes the minority opinion. I am wondering why I’m so out of step with the commenters above all of whom I find reliable and perceptive in their comments.

    First, the positives:

    1. The long paragraph in which the light flares through the window, the whiteness seems to seep through the ceiling and walls, and Ani’s bones. I thought that was an elegant description.

    2. Michael telling Ani that her cancer has spread to her right temporal lobe and that her doctor hasn’t told her this yet. This was a surprise and clearly shows Michael’s gift of omniscience.

    3. The writing style: it’s skilled, it’s well thought out, it’s not “off the cuff,” it kept me reading

    The negatives:

    1. The dialogue didn’t seem genuine to me but more an attempt at trendiness. I couldn’t get into two people, upon just meeting, and one saying “Tell me how the world ends” and “You think you know everything” as a statement of fact. How did she know this? What did he do to show her? The section on her malignant melanoma seemed to me the only part of their conversation that seemed to be based on something concrete but it comes after she knows that he knows everything.

    2. Michael’s moving his hand away when she touched his fingers: I wanted to know why he did this. If he knew the end was so close, who was he that he would be so rejecting of human contact? Certainly if he knew the world was going to end in about 30 seconds, he wouldn’t be fearing a long term commitment if he patted her hand.

    3. Why would he not tell her a nuclear explosion coming in 30 seconds would make her cancer not a real problem? “We’re all going, sweetie, cancer or not.” What’s the point of holding back this information?

    3. This seemed to me like two movie stars or high fashion models having a theoretically deep, meaningful conversation that is really quite shallow and devoid of emotion. For example, Ani blinking away a tear.

    Because I remained relatively unmoved while reading this, other than admiring Edward Ashton’s way with words, I gave it 3 stars.

    I do agree, however, with MPmcgurty: I’d like to see more of your work, Edward Ashton.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I thought about many of the points you raise while reading and rating the story. And of the points Michael below raises. For #2--I took that as indicative of his angelic provenance. He appeared to her as human, with human attributes and a plausible history, but he was of another realm not to be physically touched... I think also that Ani was a dislikeable character, and that in a sense illustrates the skill of this story--we pity such a young woman, dying of such an insidious disease--despite her tiresomeness--and then we think we know what Michael is referring to--so we feel even a deeper compassion for this shallow young woman--and then we find out what he REALLY means...she'll always be frozen at this stage of development, never become more, if that might have been possible. And it's that pseudo-sophistication of hers--"you can't guess my dreadful secret"--and poor thing, it's even worse than she thinks, and she'll never get to say her goodbyes, as she might have imagined her last few months to go...that Dark Victory dress she planned on wearing is a wasted purchase now... Anyway thinking of it like that allowed me to get beyond how I'd feel about her in "normal" circumstances. I was surprised, myself, how much I liked this, and I thought that was the gift of this writer, to pull me into something that outwardly has many elements I generally dislike, yet at the core it was remarkable.
      • joanna b.
        sarah, you were clearly moved by the story. that's terrific. i wish i had been. i was very interested in the story but not moved to the extent that i could get into the tragedy in either one of their lives. as for angels, my "perception" of them (not that i've ever perceived one) is that they are ready, willing, and able to wrap human beings in their wings and carry them off to a better place. i guess i'm a fan of some grounding in reality. if an author puts an angel in a story, he/she has to say so. i can't buy that michael was an angel. but as i said, mine was the minority opinion and i have to ponder that. Carl, I did like your "Ka-Boom" comment to Michael Ampersant, but, do you not think that the media would be overflowing with joy to keep the population informed of the asteroid, how close it was getting, when it would arrive, how many people it would kill, how britney spears and miley cyrus felt about it, etc. i hope i'm not perceived here as mocking the story. i took the story very seriously and felt that Edward Ashton put a lot of work into it.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          What I liked about it was the atypicality (?) of the angelic presence (if it was an angelic presence). He's with her in those final seconds of horrified realization, and maybe that's all the comfort anyone needs. Perhaps that's why the author wrote Ani's final action and words (though I wish he'd stopped with Michael's). I was surprised into liking this because it didn't fulfill my apprehensions of a literary story. It wasn't moving but rather unexpected and Michael's pain--as I saw it in the anguish of his mission--was an interesting take on what I thought his role was.
  • Michael Ampersant

    Nice…well-written, by EDF standards…not convinced be the ending, though, not at all…

    …how about turning this on its head…she’s been told she has cancer, but it’s not true…(we need more happy endings, folks, please)…

    Anyhow, Criticism as to writing:

    drop “half-empty”
    drop “delicately”
    drop “a dusting”
    drop “broad”
    “a week’s,” not “the week’s”

    Michael doesn’t order a second drink for Ani

    “A song plays on the jukebox next to the bar” instead of “A song begins playing on the jukebox at the front of the bar.”

    Last longer paragraph sounds too precious.

    • Carl Steiger
      MICHAEL: Cancer isn't going to kill you. You don't have cancer. ANI: Really? Wow. ASTEROID: Ka-BOOM! That still doesn't work out to a happy ending...
      • Michael Ampersant
        Yeah...your solution is already much better...especially if the non-cancer thing is convincing...it would be more convincing if Michael isn't just an omniscient Jesus-figure. [If I may say something, I'm not making this up: I always thought these cancer-wonder-healings were bullshit, but yesterday I talked to a woman I know for quite some time, she told me her story, she was terminal (cancer), and by sheer yoga and related techniques she got healed. She's now cancer-free since 15 years]
    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      Just out of curiosity, I'd be interested in knowing why you'd drop all those words... Just personal taste, or is there a reason you'd recommend cutting them?
      • Michael Ampersant
        Camille --- yes, good question, the more so since I'm not even a natural English speaker. OK..."half-empty" because it isn't needed. "Delicately" because it sounds precious. "Dusting" idem. Broad could stay, perhaps. "The weeks," because it introduces an unnecessary complication. The "second drink" --- I'm no longer so sure myself. More generally: I'm new to EDF, but get it every day now with my email. And I rarely need to go further than one paragraph before tripping about a word, typically a precious, or heavy-sounding adjective, or a pompous noun, or some such; it could be my fault, possibly is. I'm fascinated by this because I'm also new to fiction writing. I did a lot of technical, academic writing though...
        • Camille Gooderham Campbell
          Interesting. This illustrates how different readers absorb small details — for me, a half-empty bottle and a delicate sip tell me things I want to know about the characters. Your blog posts don't seem to be fiction so I would apply a different sort of editorial or reading eye to them, and this really isn't the place, but thank you for sharing it.
          • Michael Ampersant
            well...my narrators are always unreliable, so there's some fiction...and, yes Camille...the editorial or reading eye...you sure?...a supercilious adjective here, or there...(supercilious is perhaps supercilious)...depends on the context, of course, but you have them in journalistic writing as well...Let me challenge that...there shouldn't be different standards for fiction vs. non-fiction writing...that's perhaps my problem with some stories on EDF (my fault again)...they have the feel of fiction writing...
          • Camille Gooderham Campbell
            It isn't about different standards, Michael, but this isn't really the place to discuss your blog. Feel free to contact me through the EDF contact form or my blog if you want to continue this conversation.
  • Michael Ampersant

    Nice…well-written, by EDF standards…not convinced be the ending, though, not at all…

    …how about turning this on its head…she’s been told she has cancer, but it’s not true…(we need more happy endings, folks, please)…

    Anyhow, Criticism as to writing:

    drop “half-empty”
    drop “delicately”
    drop “a dusting”
    drop “broad”
    “a week’s,” not “the week’s”

    Michael doesn’t order a second drink for Ani

    “A song plays on the jukebox next to the bar” instead of “A song begins playing on the jukebox at the front of the bar.”

    Last longer paragraph sounds too precious.

    • Carl Steiger
      MICHAEL: Cancer isn't going to kill you. You don't have cancer. ANI: Really? Wow. ASTEROID: Ka-BOOM! That still doesn't work out to a happy ending...
      • Michael Ampersant
        Yeah...your solution is already much better...especially if the non-cancer thing is convincing...it would be more convincing if Michael isn't just an omniscient Jesus-figure. [If I may say something, I'm not making this up: I always thought these cancer-wonder-healings were bullshit, but yesterday I talked to a woman I know for quite some time, she told me her story, she was terminal (cancer), and by sheer yoga and related techniques she got healed. She's now cancer-free since 15 years]
    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      Just out of curiosity, I'd be interested in knowing why you'd drop all those words... Just personal taste, or is there a reason you'd recommend cutting them?
      • Michael Ampersant
        Camille --- yes, good question, the more so since I'm not even a natural English speaker. OK..."half-empty" because it isn't needed. "Delicately" because it sounds precious. "Dusting" idem. Broad could stay, perhaps. "The weeks," because it introduces an unnecessary complication. The "second drink" --- I'm no longer so sure myself. More generally: I'm new to EDF, but get it every day now with my email. And I rarely need to go further than one paragraph before tripping over a word, typically a precious, or heavy-sounding adjective, or a pompous noun, or some such; it could be my fault, possibly is. I'm participating in these discussions now because I'm fascinated by the energy of the participants. Lot's of people really seem to care, it's quite a new experience. I've already submitted a story myself because of that. I'm fascinated by this because I'm also new to fiction writing. I did a lot of technical, academic writing though... ...if you want to know more...: http://morefreedomfries.blogspot.fr/ ...you're possibly too busy...but if you have time, read the first post (Byron..) and tell me which is the first expression that upsets you...
        • Camille Gooderham Campbell
          Interesting. This illustrates how different readers absorb small details — for me, a half-empty bottle and a delicate sip tell me things I want to know about the characters. Your blog posts don't seem to be fiction so I would apply a different sort of editorial or reading eye to them, and this really isn't the place, but thank you for sharing it.
          • Michael Ampersant
            well...my narrators are always unreliable, so there's some fiction...and, yes Camille...the editorial or reading eye...you sure?...a supercilious adjective here, or there...(supercilious is perhaps supercilious)...depends on the context, of course, but you have them in journalistic writing as well...Let me challenge that...there shouldn't be different standards for fiction vs. non-fiction writing...that's perhaps my problem with some stories on EDF (my fault again)...they have the feel of fiction writing...
          • Camille Gooderham Campbell
            It isn't about different standards, Michael, but this isn't really the place to discuss your blog. Feel free to contact me through the EDF contact form or my blog if you want to continue this conversation.
  • I think that the omniscience of Michael is revealed a little awkwardly and too soon.

    We are left with a mystery of who/what Michael might be without a clear direction of resolution. That, of course, leaves it to the reader to determine. Which isn’t a bad thing. My only hiccup with it, in this case, is that I am not certain in the point of the story, other than to leave you wondering who he is. If that is indeed the case, then I want more Michael and less Ani. Use Ani to reveal more of what/who Michael might be leaving the answer slightly ambiguous with possible conflicting hints. At this point we really only have his omniscience and possible compassion for Ani.

    This story was written nicely and kept my attention until the end. Thank you for the story.

  • I think that the omniscience of Michael is revealed a little awkwardly and too soon.

    We are left with a mystery of who/what Michael might be without a clear direction of resolution. That, of course, leaves it to the reader to determine. Which isn’t a bad thing. My only hiccup with it, in this case, is that I am not certain in the point of the story, other than to leave you wondering who he is. If that is indeed the case, then I want more Michael and less Ani. Use Ani to reveal more of what/who Michael might be leaving the answer slightly ambiguous with possible conflicting hints. At this point we really only have his omniscience and possible compassion for Ani.

    This story was written nicely and kept my attention until the end. Thank you for the story.

  • A clear good effort. Reminds me of Ian Tregillis writting without the noir.
    So often I have read the commentors jump on the what if’s, who was he/she, what was meant by this or that. Although it is a healthy thing, I don’t feel that twenty questions really helps the author. The facts of fiction are present in every story submitted. If I don’t get it, then I don’t, and may wonder why but consider it useless to discuss alternatives. Every writing can be improved. That’s the “ing” of the art, but what we see here has been written in stone, no? The story is for our eyes only. It begins and ends here.
    Thank you, Edward for an entertaining story. Go, dude, you ain’t through yet.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I can tell you that for some of my own stories, regardless of what I thought I was writing about, I sometimes found different meanings and possibilities after the fact.
  • A clear good effort. Reminds me of Ian Tregillis writting without the noir.
    So often I have read the commentors jump on the what if’s, who was he/she, what was meant by this or that. Although it is a healthy thing, I don’t feel that twenty questions really helps the author. The facts of fiction are present in every story submitted. If I don’t get it, then I don’t, and may wonder why but consider it useless to discuss alternatives. Every writing can be improved. That’s the “ing” of the art, but what we see here has been written in stone, no? The story is for our eyes only. It begins and ends here.
    Thank you, Edward for an entertaining story. Go, dude, you ain’t through yet.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I can tell you that for some of my own stories, regardless of what I thought I was writing about, I sometimes found different meanings and possibilities after the fact. And isn't that what every lit class does--even when the professor is discussing a work whose author has long mouldered away? Why did Mr. Bennet marry that foolish woman? Did the heroine (blurggh) of "The Awakening" really intend to kill herself?
  • Melissa Reynolds

    I’m a Supernatural fan and on the that show, when an angel reveals his true form the room shakes, light pours in through the windows, and a high pitched sound busts all the glass… and generally humans have their eyes burned out and are killed. (It is a horror show after all.) The angels usually use a vessel, a human who agrees to being used and can contain the Angel to keep that from happening, and therefore the Angel can seem very human like. So that is why I thought this guy was an angel.

    This was the first story I got excited about on EDF. I’m partial to this one.

    • MPmcgurty
      Melissa, I am a Supernatural fan also, and your absolutely perfect description of the angels in that show has me howling. Thanks.
  • Melissa Reynolds

    I’m a Supernatural fan and on the that show, when an angel reveals his true form the room shakes, light pours in through the windows, and a high pitched sound busts all the glass… and generally humans have their eyes burned out and are killed. (It is a horror show after all.) The angels usually use a vessel, a human who agrees to being used and can contain the Angel to keep that from happening, and therefore the Angel can seem very human like. So that is why I thought this guy was an angel.

    This was the first story I got excited about on EDF. I’m partial to this one.

    • MPmcgurty
      Melissa, I am a Supernatural fan also, and your absolutely perfect description of the angels in that show has me howling. Thanks.
  • When I start in earnest to read a story as a reader and helplessly slip into editor mode I know something is amiss. The story tone read more like a couple having a chat over which carpet to buy than a woman dealing with a terminal disease and a “man” aware of impending doom.

    There were some likable descriptions within: eyebrows knit in annoyance, saccharine dance mix, bones dark tendrils, the side story of her friend and that of her father. But it lacked an immediacy in the tone of the writing. I am curious why she would begin a conversation with a near-stranger asking how the world ends. I couldn’t determine if he accepted his knowledge as fatalistic, or detached from the real world. If he is an angel, is he in a bar to pick up a girl or have one last beer? Or do angels, if he is one, not worry about personal death.

    How I see it (show don’t tell, right?):

    They sit at a table at the back of the bar. His hands wrap a beer bottle. She sips a martini and asks, “How does the world end?”

    His head shakes as if avoiding her question. “Some things are best unknown.”

    His eyes search the room. She takes a bigger sip to ease her discomfort.

    “Do you know I’m dying?”

    Michael hesitates. Then nods. His attention now back with her.

    Ani’s skin is smooth and pale. Freckles sweep her nose and her cheeks. Her hair, long and full and flows over her shoulders. A hint of gauntness in her face, and a faint tremor in her fingers are the only signs.

    “Do you know what will kill me?” she asks.

    Michael nods. “Yes. But I’m not going to tell you.”

    And with that I shall crawl back in my cave avoiding certain doom

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I think it was his mission to be with her in those last horrified moments before annihilation, and that was accomplished via a mundane pickup. We've dropped into their conversation as it becomes meaningful; the author didn't waste words on the unnecessary introduction. No doubt Michael knew the words to use to trigger the right questions from Ani. I thought the absolute ordinariness, even the banality of Ani's conversation, made a nice counterpoint to the apocalypse just making its way to their table... Most people aren't profound, even when facing the awfulness of their own mortality. Ani isn't the usual doomed-girl heroine. She's an ordinarily tiresome young woman, "special" only because she's dying young. She probably had some plans for those last few months, and now she's not even going to get to say goodbye, or develop a little depth of character, or have some great goodbye sex or anything, and this is a great mercy bestowed on her. In the cosmic scheme of things, those final few seconds could seem mighty long indeed.
      • Perhaps you are right :)
      • Melissa Reynolds
        This story seems to have really struck a cord with you. I've enjoyed reading your comments on it as well as your interpretation. I think that's what makes this story so great. It leaves room for the readers to use their own imaginations.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          One of the things I like about it is how the author made me like it...he framed something astonishing in the urban-uniform clothing of faux-sophistication--and that surprise of finding the real heart of this story made me say "Damn! You caught me!"
  • When I start in earnest to read a story as a reader and helplessly slip into editor mode I know something is amiss. The story tone read more like a couple having a chat over which carpet to buy than a woman dealing with a terminal disease and a “man” aware of impending doom.

    There were some likable descriptions within: eyebrows knit in annoyance, saccharine dance mix, bones dark tendrils, the side story of her friend and that of her father. But it lacked an immediacy in the tone of the writing. I am curious why she would begin a conversation with a near-stranger asking how the world ends. I couldn’t determine if he accepted his knowledge as fatalistic, or detached from the real world. If he is an angel, is he in a bar to pick up a girl or have one last beer? Or do angels, if he is one, not worry about personal death.

    How I see it (show don’t tell, right?):

    They sit at a table at the back of the bar. His hands wrap a beer. She sips a martini and asks, “How does the world end?”

    His head shakes as if avoiding her question. “Some things are best unknown.”

    His eyes search the room. She takes a bigger sip to ease her discomfort.

    “Do you know I’m dying?”

    Michael hesitates. Then nods. His attention now back with her.

    Ani’s skin is smooth and pale. Freckles sweep her nose and her cheeks. Her hair, long and full and flows over her shoulders. A hint of gauntness in her face, and a faint tremor in her fingers are the only signs.

    “Do you know what will kill me?” she asks.

    Michael nods. “Yes. But I’m not going to tell you.”

    And with that I shall crawl back in my cave avoiding certain doom

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      I think it was his mission to be with her in those last horrified moments before annihilation, and that was accomplished via a mundane pickup. We've dropped into their conversation as it becomes meaningful; the author didn't waste words on the unnecessary introduction. No doubt Michael knew the words to use to trigger the right questions from Ani. I thought the absolute ordinariness, even the banality of Ani's conversation, made a nice counterpoint to the apocalypse just making its way to their table... Most people aren't profound, even when facing the awfulness of their own mortality. Ani isn't the usual doomed-girl heroine. She's an ordinarily tiresome young woman, "special" only because she's dying young. She probably had some plans for those last few months, and now she's not even going to get to say goodbye, or develop a little depth of character, or have some great goodbye sex or anything, and this is a great mercy bestowed on her. In the cosmic scheme of things, those final few seconds could seem mighty long indeed.
      • Perhaps you are right :)
      • Melissa Reynolds
        This story seems to have really struck a cord with you. I've enjoyed reading your comments on it as well as your interpretation. I think that's what makes this story so great. It leaves room for the readers to use their own imaginations.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          One of the things I like about it is how the author made me like it...he framed something astonishing in the urban-uniform clothing of faux-sophistication--and that surprise of finding the real heart of this story made me say "Damn! You caught me!"
  • Pingback: Seven Minutes In Heaven - MyHandBras.comMy Hand Bras()

  • A couple of practical details bothered me regarding the “finality.”

    1. If the bright light were a nuclear explosion, the total destruction of the area would be so immediate that anything following the light wouldn’t have time for comment. It would be immediate. It wouldn’t grow brighter and brighter. As such, they wouldn’t simply rain unannounced.

    2. If a comet or meteor large enough to “destroy” were approaching, science fiction or not, current technology would allow tracking and forewarning.

    If these are ruled out, then might we have destruction of the earth or its inhabitants at the hand of God? This possibility offers tremendous opportunity to exploit the ramifications of the event.

    If God were that pissed at the world why would he send an angel or archangel to provide impossible comfort (which wasn’t evident) to this one woman who was dying anyway?

    I acknowledge that I get Rainman Anal about such things, but for me, for such a tale to succeed, then all questions must be answered, not leaving readers to ponder – well maybe this is what happened.

    (Like the groundhog, I am seeing my shadow in the bright light and am returning to my cave. 🙂 )

  • A couple of practical details bothered me regarding the “finality.”

    1. If the bright light were a nuclear explosion, the total destruction of the area would be so immediate that anything following the light wouldn’t have time for comment. It would be immediate. It wouldn’t grow brighter and brighter. As such, they wouldn’t simply rain unannounced.

    2. If a comet or meteor large enough to “destroy” were approaching, science fiction or not, current technology would allow tracking and forewarning.

    If these are ruled out, then might we have destruction of the earth or its inhabitants at the hand of God? This possibility offers tremendous opportunity to exploit the ramifications of the event.

    If God were that pissed at the world why would he send an angel or archangel to provide impossible comfort (which wasn’t evident) to this one woman who was dying anyway?

    I acknowledge that I get Rainman Anal about such things, but for me, for such a tale to succeed, then all questions must be answered, not leaving readers to ponder – well maybe this is what happened.

    (Like the groundhog, I am seeing my shadow in the bright light and am returning to my cave. 🙂 )

  • I’d just like to poke my nose in long enough to say thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment. It’s been fun watching my work get batted around here, and both the kind words and the criticisms are greatly appreciated.

  • I’d just like to poke my nose in long enough to say thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment. It’s been fun watching my work get batted around here, and both the kind words and the criticisms are greatly appreciated.