THE SURRENDER • by Heidi Ruby Miller

Standing in line with the other children, Dee clutched her stuffed bear and hid her face in its warm fur. Her other hand squeezed her mother’s fingers.

The Moderator blew smoke from its pit in the ground. Its blue metallic arm reached out, a shiny claw dangling over the crowd.

“What have you to surrender, little one?”

Dee hugged the bear close to her heart and stroked its softness. Tears flowed down her face. She brushed away the sting of their salty cowardice. Smiles from the yellow-robed adults nudged her feet closer to the Moderator.

She placed her bear on the pile next to a book of rhymes and a toy flyer. Panic welled inside her. She would never feel the bear’s comforting warmth again. The world looked wobbly. She wanted to throw up.

Her mother’s words returned as a soothing whisper. ‘Be brave. You’re of the Surrender Generation. You will be revered.’

Dee didn’t know what revered meant, only that her mother was proud of her for doing this.

Suddenly, Dee knew it wasn’t the touch of the bear she would miss, but her mother’s touch, her mother’s warmth.

But I will be revered.

She raised her arms up to the claw, ready for its cold embrace.

And that must be a good thing.


Now that Heidi Ruby Miller has graduated with a Master’s degree from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction Program, she spends her time traveling, writing, and watching HBO – in that order. You can read her interviews with over 60 different authors at ambasadora.livejournal.com.


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 average 3 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Gerard Demayne

    Brilliant story! I especially loved the characters and writing. Using punctuation tipped this over the edge. Well done!

    • Gerard Demayne

      Hehe. I actually did like this one, once I got my head around what was happening. Only problem is I don’t know any 5-8 year old who’d be so altruistic as to give up her teddy bear let alone herself.

      • That’s the beauty of EDF! I knew we’d publish something that would rock your world eventually.

    • Thank you, Gerard.

      I’ve been tweaking this story for some time. Then, one day, it just seemed finished to me. Glad you liked the punctuation. I labored over every detail.

      ~Heidi

  • HvD

    This one make me queasy and uneasy. Well done.

    • “This one makes me queasy and uneasy.”

      Me too, HvD. And thanks.

      ~Heidi

  • Russ

    Nice peice of work that achieves a lot in a very short period of time. Raises a number of comforting memes and traditional tropes in very few words, and then quickly twists them all in a fashion that leaves the reader disturbed and wondering. Can’t ask much more from a peice of ultra-short fiction.

    • Gerard Demayne

      A trope is a figure of speech, right? And a meme is an idea that passes from one person to another? Like wearing your baseball cap backwards, if I’m remembering The Selfish Gene correctly.

    • Russ:

      It was that twist I was worried about. Readers would either like it or hate it. Glad I disturbed you.

      Thanks,
      Heidi

  • Lyn

    “Queasy and uneasy.” I like that description too. Good story, but yikes, what an ending. Lyn from ResAliens

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    This is brilliant writing. And that killer twist.

    Perfect.

    • Wow, Avis.

      I feel like I should say something better than just ‘thank you!’

      How about ‘thank you very much’?

      ~Heidi

      • Avis Hickman-Gibb

        You are very welcome. It just hit me! It had all the stillness of true pathos at its centre. I read a story many. many years ago called “The Smile”. That did it for me too.

        Avis

  • Jim Cobb

    Taut.

    And it asks the question I’ve been asking myself for the last 10 days reading “Generations” by Strauss and Howe: is it necessarily a good thing being part of a generation that comes to be revered (like the G.I. generation, 1901-1924). You are called to give up a lot – but the stories! The adulation!

    Not that I’d ever know as a Gen Xer.

    • So, Jim, could you tell by the story that I’m a Gen Xer, too?

      The few, the proud–wait, somebody else uses that slogan….

      ~Heidi

  • Flashes are so hard to write – yet Heidi managed to capture the essence of the world and characters with so few words. Wonderful. I suspected about the ending when I read about the claw, yet I still hoped for the girl.

    • Thank you, Maria.

      I learned about flash from the best (Mike Arnzen, of course), but you’re right about how difficult it can be to make a short piece work.

      ~Heidi

  • Danielle Hinesly

    Disturbing, haunting…. well done.
    Terrific characterizations is such a short space.
    I’m still wanting to save the little girl!

    • “I’m still wanting to save the little girl.”

      Me too, Danielle. I’m a devotee of Whedon’s when it comes to endings. He says something about how he gives the audience the ending they need, not the one they want. I’ve always liked that philosophy because it stays with the reader or viewer longer than a HEA.

      ~Heidi

  • K. Ceres Wright

    Excellent work! At first, the set-up bodes ill for the girl indirectly, then BAM!…wrenches your heart all the way when you realize her fate. Well done.

    • Thanks, Ceres.

      I’m glad you appreciated the set-up. I tried to give a hint through the mood that something was not as it seemed so that when the ending came it wasn’t out of left field.

      ~Heidi

  • Erica Christensen

    Pierced me to the core. Beautiful job. It stabs and aches!

    • Erica:

      I’m happy it got to you enough to share your feelings. That’s complimentary in itself.

      ~Heidi

    • Erica Christensen

      I love your setup, and there’s just the right amount of descriptive details that jar your senses. The dangling blue claw, the smoke and the yellow robes… shudder.

      • 🙂

        I’ve always been a fan of creating feelings through colors so I’m glad that came through.

        Best,
        Heidi

  • Oonah V Joslin

    I’m in BITS. I would have done anything to make my mummy proud of me so….
    Oh, well done Ruby.

  • “I’m in BITS.”

    I love that! I may start using it, but don’t worry I’ll say I learned it from Oonah.

    Thanks,
    Heidi (but don’t worry, a lot of people call me Ruby)

    • Oonah V Joslin

      in BITS? – Well you’d have to Heidi, because I’ve used it quite a lot. Sorry about the Ruby – just like that name so it stood out more.

  • Loved it! Makes me want to run over and save the girl. Gave a good start to my day. Thanks, Heidi.

    DJ

    • “Gave a good start to my day.”

      That’s so great to hear, DJ.

      And, thank you,
      Heidi

  • D. Bara

    Very, very chilling HRB!

    Reminds me of the time (true story here) when my mother made me throw my favorite stuffed animal into a landfill at the age of four.

    So you have re-awakened at nightmare for me!

    db

  • “my mother made me throw my favorite stuffed animal into a landfill at the age of four”

    Dave:

    It’s like I was channeling you or something! Creepy.

    ~Heidi

  • Mark H

    Great ending. It is a shock – not only because it is a twist – but because you don’t want to believe what the story tells you is going on.

  • Judging from the number of comments, people are getting a lot out of this piece.

    It’s one of my personal favorites as well. The whole thing bleeds emotion. To do that in a short space is awesome. As soon as we saw this piece we knew we had to publish it.

    • I’m flattered, Jordan. Thank you.

      And, I’m glad I saw your guidelines on Duotrope!

      ~Heidi

  • Kathy

    This story instantly reminded me of one of my favorite stories from high school and college literature: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Very good… very, very good. Powerful.

    • Kathy, I remember “The Lottery.” It gave me that sick feeling after I read it.

      Thank you for the compliment.

      ~Heidi

  • Antonio

    Well done Ms. Miller. I may have to take notes on how you use emotion to highlight the decision. I hope to see more of your writings in hopes to improve my own.

    • I can’t think of a greater compliment that one writer can pay another. Great work!

  • Liz Coley

    Great misdirection with the pile of surrendered toys. I was thinking, that’s bad enough. Then as soon as you said she’d miss her mother…the realization struck a real emotional blow. For such a crisp story, it leaves a lingering aftertaste of sorrow and dismay.

    • “…it leaves a lingering aftertaste of sorrow and dismay.”

      Thank you, Liz. I was hoping for the ‘I’m still thinking about that story’ effect. I’m glad it worked for you.

      ~Heidi

  • Hmm…I can’t think of any original comments for this one…so: WOW!

  • Tootsie McCallahan

    NO! Not the claw!

    This was creepy/incredible.

    • “the claw!”

      I have to admit that after I kept rereading the story to tweak it, I started to think of TOY STORY…

      🙂 Heidi

  • Chun Lee

    Great one. I like how you get to the twist in so few words.

  • Like others have said, terrific misdirection. And you’ve really tuned into something primal here. Great writing, Heidi!

  • Dana Marton

    This is a fantastic piece. Amazing how much you expressed in such a short space. It’s difficult to get readers’ emotions involved, even when we have whole chapters to do it. You accomplished that beautifully.

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you.
    Dana

  • As a mother, I found this story terribly distressing to read. Actually, I probably would have found it distressing anyway, but after I read it, I just kept looking at my little girl and wanting to hug her. Utterly chilling!

  • I wondered how readers with small children would react. It bothered me and I don’t even have kids.

    ~Heidi

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  • What a great example of flash fiction…very archetypal yet postmodern. Sharply crafted. Horrifying, just in time for the Holidays. I love it.